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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

Sverre Knut Johansen Planets (2013)

“Planets possesses all the charms of an EM which flirts skillfully with a New Age à la Vangelis without faked emotions”

1 Twin Sunrise 4:00 2 Planets I 5:36 3 Dreamspace Part I 5:45 4 In Orbit 7:37 5 Nebulae 6:34 6 Planets II 6:50 7 Origins 11:37 8 Apsis 5:03 9 Planets III 3:20 10 Dreamspace Part II 17:35 Sverre Knut Johansen Music

(DDL 61:58) (V.F.) (Melodious Space Music)

It's while writing the column about Secret Space Program that a fan wrote me about the album PLANETS. According to his statements, it must be considered as Sverre Knut Johansen's best album. So Sverre has friendly sent me this album to validate the craze of this admirer. My first contact was rather tepid. And my first analysis was that the album was feeding an armada of style which fluttered from synth Space Music to New Age while touching a good EM pushed by sequencers and percussions. The next attempt brought me to the same conclusion but with more bewitchment for the senses. And finally, I ended to like this album of which the sound texture, the musical wealth and the harmonious direction lean on two working years. PLANETS was simmered between 2000 and 2002, with a care for detail that testifies to this minutia of Sverre Knut Johansen who neglects nothing, hence a beautiful cosmic tale on planets that has been thought with a vision that matches the perfectionism of the sympathetic Norwegian musician.

An ambience of cosmos opens the twilights and allows to some arpeggios to make sparkle a little melody as fragile as striking. A melodist without equal, who is strongly influenced by the arrangements of Vangelis, SKJ draws a superb one in this opening. A decoration of cosmic jungle surrounds this harmonious delicacy which is solidly screwed at the bottom of our eardrums while the ambient rhythm of Twin Sunrise militarizes itself with percussions of which the rumblings sculpt a pretty good cosmic bolero. A strong starting signal which sends the ears in orbit! Especially that Planets I appears as a deserving successor with a very Tangerine Dream approach from the post TDI years. The electronic percussions, kind of bongo drums, and the melodic arrangements of the synth dominate and create an approach marked with emotion. The impact is not as well dominant as with Twin Sunrise, but we let oneself easily cradle by this rhythmic approach which does in a very accessible New Age. If one likes it when ethereal melody and arrangement go hand in hand, then Dreamspace Part I is another very good track that is slightly livened up by these bongo percussions which perfume the rhythms of this album. The rhythm is always in passive mode with some well moderated explosions and is drummed delicately under a bed of orchestrations that will raise the hairs of our spine. An Elvish voice comes to whisper in our ears the delights of a cosmic Eden while the arrangements, I even hear an oboe, are brilliantly mixed with good cosmic effects. Effects which are even more omnipresent in In Orbit whose evolutionary structure hangs onto this crescendo in mode Bolero which leads the ambient and circular rhythms that we find all over PLANETS. There is a good duel synth/guitar here with soft and evasive synth solos versus the incisive and penetrating ones from Eivind Aarset's guitar. Nebulae is more meditative with a synth which draws a melodious approach on the songs of cosmic whales. The layers of voices are as much serene and captivating as in Dreamspace Part I.

Planets II puts more emphasis on vocalizes with an approach clearly in mode cosmic opera, genre Luc Besson' The 5th Element. The title slips towards a more rock phase when this opera voice melts its fascinating harmonies to some nice guitar solos. Soft and poetic, Origins is a very nice. We float through space on the giant wings of an intersidereal eagle. There is a lot of emotion and intensity in this title where the ambient music is more melodious than absent. Apsis flirts with the borders of New Age with a delicate melody blown from a synth a bit nasal. The percussions, always in mode tom-tom and bongo and sometimes even military, welcome this tearful lullaby which hangs on to a rhythmic intensity of which the peak is a good electronic rock as much heavy than slow. After this short raid in this contemporary universe of Tangerine Dream, Apsis returns to its meditative bed where still spark these melodious pearls that are charmingly scattered in PLANETS. We cannot like what is beautiful! A little more aggressive and still very melodious, Planets III switches off its ardor into good orchestrations. Dreamspace Part II ends this SKJ's 6th album with an approach which follows the rules of Dreamspace Part I but with 12 minutes in plus which serve to explore a universe closer to the one of Code Indigo or the one of David Wright. The first 10 minutes are very effective with these layers of voices that are still fighting in duel with some strong raids of a starved and dynamic electric six-strings. The rhythm always grows in its pattern of crescendo, allying melody and intensity in a well embellished cosmic soundscape. The last 7 minutes are shared between fragments of rhythm and by phases of ambiences which are decorated of cosmic effects on a background of meditation and of this seraphic voice which gives a very oneiric depth to the universe of this very beautiful album of the Norwegian musician.

Beautiful and harmonious to the bone, I now understand very well why this album is described as being Sverre Knut Johansen's most beautiful one. And as I like all that is rather beautiful and melodious that can compete with the music of Vangelis, I must admit that I got myself caught in the numerous traps of charms that are anchored in the universe of PLANETS. We are far from a complicated EM or a kind of Berlin School thirsty for dark rhythms here. It's the very opposite! But that remains beautiful, very beautiful even, and that possesses all the charms of an EM which flirts skillfully with New Age without becoming a work without emotions.

Sylvain Lupari (August 17th, 2017) ****¼*

Available at Sverre Knut Johansen Bandcamp

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