SVERRE KNUT JOHANSEN: Earth From Above (2016)
“This album is a very nice surprise where charms and originality get mix to pure EM and progressive New Age”
1 Introduction (Skymood) 1:54 2 Flying Birds 6:40 3 Lost 5:01 4 Awakening 5:59 5 Crossing 7:16 6 Frozen Sky 6:57 7 Echoes of Tomorrow 5:38 8 #Connecting#Landscapes 4:24 9 Earth From Above 6:43 10 Great View 5:42 11 Years 6:12 12 Found 3:57 Spotted Peccary | SPM-3001 (CD/DDL 66:23) (V.F.) (Ambient/tribal Electronica)
Sound aestheticism! That always be the key element of EM. And the American label Spotted Peccary Music is a factory to produce music which is crowned of an attractive aestheticism of sounds. The last find of Howard Givens' label is another Norwegian artist, the 3rd behind Erik Wollo and Green Isac, to see his music invade Spotted Peccary Music's studios; Sverre Knut Johansen. EARTH FROM ABOVE is his 5th album, his first one on SPM, and offers more than 60 minutes of EM where the ambiences and the electronic rhythms transcend a bit the usual kind of the Californian label. Here is a very nice album with a surprising breath of fresh air for a sound which seems so near our memories.
The chant of a celestial body! The seraphic sigh of a goddess who draws stars from the tips of her fingers. A mislaid saxophone (hey... that sounds like Vangelis) crying its night while a guitar (or a synth?) makes melt its tears which fall such as a dropper. And these lines of synth which bend their feelings, twisting themselves to cry out. Introduction (Skymood) invades our ears with this rich pallet of sounds which structure the ambiences of EARTH FROM ABOVE. What hold at first the attention, is this mixture of lines from the guitars and the synths which unite their spectral harmonies into tears which stigmatize in a rich musical panorama. That does very Erik Wollo. Normal you will tell me, because Wollo has already produced the music of SKJ at the time when he was on the Origo Sound label. Except that here, it's David Helping who takes care, and who also collaborates, of the guitar textures. It's an introduction dreamed which guides us to the first harmonies of the crystal-clear sequences which forge the elvish dance of Flying Birds. These sequences dance like imps. In fact, they wave such as these pennants which wind the winds. And their shadows which glitter in the darkness are resounding with the drumming of which the undulatory structure floats between sound fragments and silk murmurs. The 2nd element which holds the attention in EARTH FROM ABOVE is the programming of the structures of rhythms. Everything is weaved in the originality, not to say the complexity, with explosive moments, as ambient ones, where each transformation blooms in the unexpected. Here, one would say small steps of children which dance breathless while glass sequences continue their allegorical singing. The rhythm switches for a rhythm of the Islands. A festive tribal approach which little by little becomes electronic with a meshing of quavering and of panting coming from percussions and from pulsations. It's lively! It's original and it dances under a sonic sky covered of these tears which thwart the ear by not knowing too much if they come from an astral six-strings or from a synth to the ethereal poetry. And it could also be a fusion of both elements. So, welcome to this universe all in charms of this album. The harmonies of the sequences get lost in the strong astral currents of Lost. Here, the perfumes of Vangelis will never have been so present with a synth which unties its thoughts in the textures of ambient guitars from which the harmonies of weeping ghosts melt into those of astral whales. A line of riffs gallops shyly over the ethereal atmospheres of Lost, crashing in a heavy mosaic of cosmographical groans while a line of sequences emerges out of nowhere and weaves a delicate crystal-clear melody and hypnotically anesthetic. There is a perfume of Darshan Ambient floating here! It's like hearing the crystal sing.
Floating in troubled waters Awakening, keeps us a little in these moods before making spattering a splendid shadow of Electronica bathed in slamming percussions. Some orchestrations soften the vigor of the rhythm with entrancing layers which embalm this duel guitar/synth of which the breaths of forsaken trumpets are bringing a very melancholic dimension to the track. Crossing is a long ambient track filled with dark lines, some are scarlet, which float as veils of threat on some peaceful keyboard chords which sound like tears in the universe of Blade Runner. The hollow winds of Crossing are flooding the opening of Frozen Sky where tears of synth/guitar are whipping the moods, like stab hits in the fog of nothingness. A heavy and ambient structure of rhythm settles down with noisy tom-toms which roar on lively skins and of which the growls annihilate those tears to the spectral harmonies. Ambivalent, uncertain and even galloping on its line of riffs, the rhythm eventually exploded and scatters the fragments of its discord on the caresses of this tearful melody which finds refuge also in Echoes of Tomorrow and its less heavy, but more steady, structure of electronic rhythm. A little as these last Erik Wollo's dreamlike rhythms, and with a guitar which embalms the senses. #Connecting#Landscapes brings us to another level. That of an Electronica structured on a rhythmic tumult with constant movements of jerks. This kind of electronic break-dance crosses ambient currents where strolls the nostalgia for a dreamy piano and its melody which floats in the aromas of an ethereal six-strings which always haunts our two hemispheres a few hours farther. The title-track is perfumed by some essences of Wollo. It led us back to these spirits of ambient rhythms with gyratory loops which dissolve their charms in a panoply of electronic effects and in two lines of contrasting melodies, among which one which eats at once the whims of our hearing. Great View is as much ambient as Crossing but is also clearly less dark with a thick cloud of orchestrations which plasticize the atmospheres with a slow and gargantuan coat of synth in the colors of more blazing sunset. Years makes moving our fingers, otherwise our feet, with a good progressive rhythm, which goes from quiet to lively, structured on a meshing of electronic percussions, kind of clanic ones, and sequences which drum, or stamp, under a sound sky covered of multiple lines to the iridescent colors. Good and lively, as much as for the listening as for the senses! Found ends EARTH FROM ABOVE with an approach of serenity where long hummings, sculptured in droning twists, are singing in the breaths of a sonic horn of plenty filled by contrasted but so soothing tones.
EARTH FROM ABOVE is a breath of fresh air! It's this kind of album that little by little, in each new listening, makes its way towards the meanders of our feelings with lines of ambient and floating melodies which are structured in the tears of this fusion of electronic instruments and guitars and which are murmured by spectres. It's an album where the creativity hides behind each note with some totally unexpected forms of rhythms which implode and explode and where the influences of Steve Roach and Erik Wollo are splendidly transported in a sonic fresco which abound in surprises. It's beautiful and extremely musical for the kind. Hat to you Sverre Knut Johansen!
Sylvain Lupari (February 22nd, 2016) ****½*
Available at Spotted Peccary Music