SVERRE KNUT JOHANSEN: Dreams Beyond (2020)
Updated: Sep 15
“This is another great album from SKJ who leads us to an unimaginable odyssey in the lands of wonders from EM”
1 Tatra Mountains
2 Awakening 9:37
3 Skylight 8:58
4 Dreams Beyond 10:54
5 Dawn 4:01
6 Tatra Mountains 8:35
7 Causeway 9:48
8 Echoes of the Past 9:19
9 Human Connection 6:38
(CD/DDL 72:33) (V.F.)
(Cinematic, ethnic, New Age)
We have the impression of having been parachuted to the limits of the forbidden territories where a school of birds reaches us from the oceans with chirps, then cries of electronic seagulls. Once there, our immersion in greenish territory takes root with mechanical breezes which pass over this distant pool of birds and over a fauna of organic parasites. From the outset, Tatra Mountains (Introduction) makes us its cinema! The complexion of the ambiences, and the visions that I have of it, is like the jungle of the Predators, in particular because of this subtle organic language which flirts with my hallucinations. The orchestral arrangements make this veil of violins flutter, which awakens the avian fauna as well as a synth harmonized in an elephant trumpet. It blows enormous high-pitched forms which keep rolling in the tumults fed by the staccato effects of this mass of violins, pounding a haunting rhythm. A jerky rhythm which dies out, the instant to give free rein to this synth and these rotating loops which stimulates the second impetus of Tatra Mountains (Introduction). The synths weave an extraordinary universe with orchestral arrangements drawn from Vangelis' memories and hallucinating chants that are lost in the other violent movement in staccato of the violins. The decibel load is high with this methodical din in a psychedelic vision from the synths and the arrangements. Let's say I couldn't wait to stumble upon Awakening.
At this point, I would have been far from thinking that I would say; DREAMS BEYOND is another majestic album from Sverre Knut Johansen my friends! In an intense album, born from the noise of its opening, and passionate, this 5th album by the Norwegian musician on Spotted Peccary is a daring musical adventure which is mainly inspired by the front picture on the album's artwork. It must be said that the visions of the phantasmagoric universes of Michał Karcz, the creator of this cover, have something to stimulate the creativity of artists who connect to his paintings and his visions. This album offers more than 72 minutes of stylized music in a very beautiful cinematographic vision where each title, despite the conceptual principle of the album, is a story that sometimes follows a common thread absorbed by an excellent New Age section in the middle adventure and an incredible finale to make cry a bag of onions.
Awakening embarks after a good 3 minutes of musical discord. The percussions then sculpt a superb down-tempo infused by a synth and its harmonic chants which respond to these jets of mist from the percussive elements. The rhythm becomes more catchy with Arabian orchestrations while the synth surprises by letting go two lines of chants which answer to each other. It's at this moment that a guitar takes us by surprise, enriching even more the musical density of Awakening which runs out of steam in the normal parameters of EM, be in a texture of ambiences. Skylight immediately takes our ears by storm with rhythmic loops propelled by the implosions of the synth which also programs a nice chorus in a sound texture remarkably close to the ambiences of the Precambrian album. The percussions end up redefining the structure of the rhythm which becomes more of a progressive rock with these cooing in loops which turn from the second zero and the harmonies of a synthesizer nourished by the psybient effects. Victim of internal bickering, Skylight becomes a complex structure for a few moments, just to reformulate once again its need for a complex rock that is as catchy for the feet as for the neurons. The synths continue to sprinkle the ambiences with splendid solos and fine lines of murmurs, retaining its psybient essence in this structure which totally unravels our vision and our approach in front of DREAMS BEYOND. We now know that we have an electronic progressive rock album with a highly active synth, and for solos, for harmonic lines and sometimes for organic psybient effects. On the other hand, the title-track brings us back to earth with a melodious New Age approach and its synth diffuser of those melodies which drag our feet on the copiously watered sand of the Caribbean seas. The synth solos are incredible on this track with aerial acrobatics figures which form endless loops and which make Dreams Beyond an excellent progressive New Age track. Let's also say that it falls in the right place in this sometimes disjointed setting with emerald colors that surround the first 3 titles, like the last 3, of this album. Dawn continues this New Age introspection by Sverre Knut Johansen with meditative music and arrangements of woodwind instruments that support the chants of the celestial sparrows.
Tatra Mountains arrives at this point with an envelope filled with emotion and intensity. The sound mass is dense and increases its compactness as the seconds are passing by. Organic effects, like annihilate breezes, intersect in an infinite twilight where loops of orchestral harmonies are formed which quietly unroll a beauty distorted by fine lines of lamentations. These loops roll a renewed intensity at each step to howl again this nascent din of the opening title. Except that here, the orchestrations have time to stretch a musicality which is renewed with each burst and which amplifies its presence in a last thunderous third where the serenity part of the Tatra Mountains resides. It's in a cosmic approach that Causeway extends its wings. Its openness is sewn into doubt with a strong propensity for ambient tribal of American swamp strain. The sound effects are dense there and the thrown spears which whistle above the ambiences are landing in a zone of turbulence more anemic here than elsewhere. The rhythm which emerges around the 4 minutes becomes a down-tempo slashed by steel guitar blades à la Erik Wollo and nourished by good percussive effects, always a bit organic. A superb title sewn into complexity which pitches us a bluesy solo and which joins the delights of Awakening and Skylight. Echoes of the Past is a powerful title offering a tribal vision that would go wonderfully with Converge, the last album of Michael Stearns & Erik Wollo. The guitar is so screaming. With her fine blades, she cuts both the rhythmic portions and the core of ambiences that nourish its second flight. It's the kind of track that you always try to listen to again, but there you have the wonderful Human Connection. WoW my friends, my arm's hairs hurt so much as it tries to go up and up… to the levels of my sensitivity. To put you better, it sounds a lot like Chariots of Fire's title-track. The soft rhythm and its echo effect stick to the good orchestral arrangements, I hear murmurs among them, which are topped by a piano forging of dreams. A Patrick O'Hearn's bass adds its imprint as Human Connection continuously strengthens our emotional level with an explosive second part led by a guitar and its screaming solos that come to seek that tear to the corner of my obsession. A splendid finale which gives me this taste to listen to this immortal album of Vangelis. Except that I end up playing DREAMS BEYOND again and gorging myself on these beauties that I discovered the first time, so much the musical envelope of a first hearing threw me to the ground. The second listening brought me more and so on...An excellent album from Sverre Knut Johansen!
Sylvain Lupari (September 14th, 2020) ****¼*
Available at Spotted Peccary Music