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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

Sverre Knut Johansen New York By Night (Master tapes 1977-1983) (2022)

Updated: Sep 25, 2022

This is not for fans of SVJ, but if you want to know his roots, it's quite suitable

1 New York By Night 3:11

2 A Sirens Cry 4:01

3 Happy Vocoder 3:08

4 Passages of a Dream 3:33

5 Symphonic Landscapes 4:07

6 The Ocean and Forever 7:02

7 Love of Air 4:33

8 Lillemoen 3:22

9 Present Sign 4:10

10 Technics Organ Theme 2:05

11 Dragons World 3:09

12 Bring Me the Light 4:48

13 Seven Moons 3:43

14 Escape 4:50

15 Danger to your Health 4:20

16 Jupiter 4 1:55

17 The Universe and I is One 3:36

18 Playground 5:21

19 Hunting 3:40

20 Hovering Norwegian Oil Platform 4:00

(DDL 78:42) (V.F.)

(Prog EM, Jazz Rock EM)

I am not a musician, but I love music. And not only electronic music (EM)! And I often wonder what the background of these musicians who practice and develop this form of music is. What did they do before? If some of them have always been playing EM or working in the field of synthesizers and software's synthesizers, others come from a rather parallel culture in the world of progressive music. I've even heard that some artists have a gift for heavy metal! Sverre Knut Johansen belongs to the cream of cosmic and meditative atmospheres composers since his Distant Shore in 1993. And if some tracks had a rock texture, I was far from suspecting that the Norwegian musician had been strongly influenced by this genre some 15 years earlier. Because it's at this time that the tracks of NEW YORK BY NIGHT (Master tapes 1977-1983) were composed and recorded. And we are very far from what the Norwegian musician-synthesist is used to offer us. This new album-download contains 20 tracks that travel from progressive rock textures to Jazz rock in the style of Herbie Hancock. We find rather nice ballads that could fit to love or drama movies. The whole of the tracks is strongly hammered by a massive use of electronic drum machines and bass lines addicted to the Funk style. The synth remains the predominant instrument injecting as many solos as melodic phases, while SKJ uses the guitar and his voice on some ballads. Yes, this compilation of tracks that have traced the way of the Norwegian is full of surprises that are far from being ugly if we want to be honest. Available for download, the artist has written all the data related to each track on the Bandcamp page of NEW YORK BY NIGHT (Master tapes 1977-1983). The other compilation, Galaxy, comes with the buying of this download.

And it starts with the curt and sharp rhythm of the title-track which is harpooned by a heavy drum. The bass is also hungry while the synth multiplies orchestral layers and long contemplative solos. The track suffers from a slight lag in the sequences that gets lost in its abundance of percussions. Big electronic rock! A Sirens Cry is more in electronic Jazz Rock mode with a nervous drumming. The bass and the synth harmonies add a more progressive touch to the music. The same goes for Passages of a Dream which proposes a structure closer to the contemporary electronic rock with slamming effects of the percussions and a rhythm structured on a harmonic vision. Happy Vocoder proposes an up-tempo that the use of vocoder makes a bit futuristic. A Hip-Hop from the future! And if you like the percussive effects of the drums, Symphonic Landscapes will fill your ears. Heavy and curt rhythm caressed by orchestral arrangements at two speeds. The Ocean and Forever is the only track to exceed 7 minutes. Its opening is of the atmospheric kind with waves rolling and crashing. The rhythm that comes out of it is of the slow and bewitching kind, a bit vitaminized with beautiful effects and harmonious snatches of the synth. There are moments of passion that could have made the delights of music for a drama movie. Love of Air is a progressive rock arched over a good humming bass line and nice keyboard harmonies. The synth unleashes some good twisting solos and spectral effects. We even hear a guitar solo here.

The guitar is also present, in an acoustic version, on Lillemoen which proposes a slow rhythm with a Patrick O'Hearn bass style. A nice track to support a love movie! Contrary to Present Sign which is a big crazy rock with a Jazz touch and to Technics Organ Theme which continues to exploit such a rhythmic vision. Dragons World exploits an approach that flirts with Herbie Hancock's RockIt. The rhythm is nervous and jerky with a preponderance for a hungry bass and unbridled percussions. The same goes for the wild Hunting. The opening of Bring Me the Light vaguely reminds me of Alive and Kicking by Simple Minds. A slow track with Sverre Knut Johansen as a singer. Structured on an aggressive drumming, Seven Moons offers a short progressive rock. We stay in the genre with the music of Escape which adopts marvellously the sense of its title with its rhythm of frantic race. The synth is very present on these two tracks. While it is more in harmony mode on Playground, another track that flirts with the barriers of prog in a more accessible vision. With its curt bouncing rhythm and synth arrangements, a track like Danger to your Health is very much in the Toto style. SKJ also sings on this track, as he also sings on the ballad The Universe and I is One. For such a short track, Jupiter 4 offers a big electronic rock with a bass structure having a vision of gurgling vocals. It's very energetic for a track of only 2 minutes. Hovering Norwegian Oil Platform ends this fascinating journey that forged Sverre Knut Johansen's present style with another approach that flirts with prog rock.

Assuming that what you will hear on this album-download does not compare in any way with what you know of the artist, you will understand that NEW YORK BY NIGHT (Master tapes 1977-1983) is not for the fans of Sverre Knut Johansen's more current music. It's a compilation album that can please fans of electronic progressive rock with a jazz influence in its structures. There are also some nice ballads that would sound good enough for love or drama movies. But nothing compares to the current universe of the Norwegian musician. I enjoyed discovering this unknown side of him and I am also convinced that his fans who have been following him since his first steps will like it.

Sylvain Lupari (June 6th, 2022) *****

Available at Sverre Knut Johansen Bandcamp

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