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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

Sverre Knut Johansen METAHUMAN (2022)

Updated: Sep 25, 2022

A splendid album of symphonic electronic music whose charms grow with each listen


2 HUMAN (Path of Destruction) 10:34

3 Unity of Existence Through Evolution 8:48

4 Immortal 5:45

5 META (The Light Inside You) 6:24

6 METAHUMAN (Extended) 9:51

7 Fluctuations of Awareness 7:55

8 Miracle of Existence 7:35

9 Infinity Being 6:12

Spotted Peccary SPM-3006

(CD/DDL 66:44) (V.F.)

(Symphonic soundscapes, E-Rock)

A droning line and another with a more industrial texture are at the origin of the first keyboard chords that open the title-track of this latest opus by Sverre Knut Johansen. These keyboard chords tinkle softly in an austere setting. They carve out a slow, dark astral ascent that collides with a surprising, and above all unexpected, rhythmic structure just after the first minute. It's a fusion of bass pulses and percussive slams whose circular flow forges a rhythmic ritornello that has the charm equivalent of a melody that is maker of an earworm. Built with a vision of complexity, this first rhythmic structure to shake up METAHUMAN's ambiences leaves an imprint that will be difficult to dislodge from the other rhythmic entities of this very beautiful album of the Norwegian musician. This rhythmic rush resounds in the vast soundscape of METAHUMAN where Ståle Storløkken scatters the laments of his Haken Continuum, also present in METAHUMAN (Extended), in the furrows of these 4 to 5 keyboard chords which end up weaving the bases of this melody which will anchor the next ones to come of the album. METAHUMAN shows this amazing capacity that SKJ has to combine complexity and accessibility in an astral symphony where the New Age remains in the shadow of a sonic vastitude whose harmonious plains sing on convoluted rhythm structures. These rhythms rest on a mesh of electronic percussion, highly nuanced sequences and orchestral arrangements that are also complicit in a musical texture filled with poignant moments as well as crescendos. Between Vangelis and David Wright, the brilliant Norwegian musician-synthesist has no equal for blooming arrangements and melodies that bring us to the doors of emotions as populated as the heart of New-York around 4 pm. Inspired by a book by Deepak Chopra, this 6th album by Sverre Knut Johansen on Spotted Peccary tries to guide us to a higher consciousness. I don't know if it will work for you! For me, METAHUMAN's music took me beyond my usual emotions. Where this desire to vibrate overcame my 64-year-old consciousness.

You doubt the richness of this album? It is in an atmospheric din that HUMAN (Path of Destruction) docks to our ears. Winds, hollow like buzzing, and their gust. Sounds and distorted voice effects. Effects of distortion and/or loss of auditory signals. These elements converge towards a cinematic atmosphere whose crescendo reaches its climax at the 90th second. The rhythm emerges with a repressed violence in orchestral arrangements whose cadenced staccatos are drawn on a Jean-Michel Jarre keyboard style. These legatos swirl in a rhythmic maelstrom that dissolves its intensity to twirl like a cloud of musical butterflies whose mystery brings out a line of bass sequences that tramples in the background of a musical drama. This complex structure, to say the least, continues to beat like the blades of a helicopter losing speed and altitude. It's the intensity of the music and of the ambiences that dictate its conduct, vaguely inspired by the Berlin School, but mainly from the synth that lets hover nebulous fluty harmonies and then superb solos radiating like those of an inspired guitarist and on the verge of tears. An incredibly rich track that will make its army of shivers grow on your arms. And this as much in a headset as on speakers. Moreover, the realization of this album, brilliantly mastered by Howard Givens, is breathtaking!

The level of intensity is undoubtedly the cornerstone of METAHUMAN. It is transposed on the opening of Unity of Existence Through Evolution whose synth wails, sounding like Martenot wave or lap-steel guitar laments, flow into a soundscape blurred by shadows that buzz and rumble while others bubble like lava in ebullition. Chords borrowed from a fake double bass sculpt an ambient rhythm after the 3rd minute. Elastic, they encroach on the territory like isolated wolf steps in a soundscape whose scansion develops into a static structure stuffed with the overlapping of a mass of atmospheric elements. To cut a long story short, a track like Immortal offers a beautiful rhythmic melody built on a series of riffs that swirl like a ballet dancer carried away by weeping winds. Like every track here, the music and its melodic rhythm builds with an intensity, rhythmic here, that becomes a good heavy, slow electronic rock. Even with its circular riff line. If you are sensitive, METAHUMAN will reveal its gemstone box. META (The Light Inside You) is the most beautiful among them! Its opening leaves a meditative melody flowing over a twitch of silver reflections. The prevailing winds have an essence of absent voices that hum the unthinkable until a divine lullaby begins to swirl around the second minute. That's when the tears wanted to come out of my soul. They are pushed back to the door of my emotions when this ritornello leaves its meditative axis to undertake a cadenced astral cruise. I thought I saw Vangelis on a cloud here! A simply superb track! METAHUMAN (Extended) takes advantage of its almost 10 minutes to fill our ears with a vision that is much more intense than the opening track. Fluctuations of Awareness is an intense atmospheric track that breaks into several segments of stationary rhythm. Note the percussive ambient elements that thunder and echo to create a furiously static rhythmic structure and the amazing growl line in the background that activates a fascinating upbeat sequence. The rhythm eventually gives itself over to a form of progressive Electronica with muffled beats under a thick layer of synth wails. Over a delicate pulsating rhythm structure, Miracle of Existence travels in astral waltz mode over the winged harmonics of a synth that also mixes its slightly sharper orchestrations and elegiac voices into a more poignant and dramatic musical texture. This cosmographic waltz-like motion and the pulsing bass-line which is resounding like a semi-tensioned rubber band contribute to the rise of the melodious Infinity Being. David Helpling lends his glassy piano chords and lyrical guitar breathes to end this complex yet appealing work on an ambient melody that cradles itself on the roots of New Age.

Powerful and poetic, Sverre Knut Johansen's METAHUMAN is a splendid album of symphonic electronic music whose charms and spellbinding spells grow with each listen. The musical aesthetics here is of a rare intensity, as much on the level of the emotions as on the level of the arrangements, on multi layered synth lines and on structures of rhythm whose complexity does not chase away at all the more timid ears.

Sylvain Lupari (25/09/22) *****

Available at Spotted Peccary Music

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