SVERRE KNUT JOHANSEN: Precambrian (2019)
“A great texture of tones in a complex work makes of Precambrian an album not so easy to tame but which deserves that we give it chances to go deep into this little masterpiece”
1 Hadean Eon (Earth’s Formation) 4:52
2 Archean Eon (Life Beginning and Photosynthesis) 6:39
3 Proterozoic Eon (Oxygen Crisis and First Snowball Earth) 11:32
4 Paleozoic Era (Transformation - Animals and Plants Emanate onto Land) 7:05
5 Mesozoic Era (First Mammals and Birds) 6:50
6 Cenozoic Era (Climate changes; Homo Habilis and Evolution) 7:48
7 Anthropocene (Humans Impact Earth’s Geology and Ecosystems) 5:56
8 Precambrian (Earth's Geologic Time Scale Impact) 11:42
Spotted Peccary SPM-3004 (CD/DDL 62:29)
(Tribal ambient music)
And if everything started from end? Hadean Eon starts this last trip of the Norwegian multi-instrumentalist by waves of buzzing wooshh and waashh that sneak into a cave or a cosmic corridor to follow the underground fields with shadows singing like ectoplasms. At times, it sounds like songs of interstellar calves who bring a form of life to our planet. While at other times it looks like nothingness wooing a place where to drop its backpack. But anyway, it's the beginning of PRECAMBRIAN a fourth opus from Sverre Knut Johansen on Spotted Peccary. And it's another little tour-de-force of the label that agrees to go even further than the works of the same kind from Shane Norris with either Mystified or Frore. But this time, the result is very different. More concrete I would allow myself. Because Sverre Knut entrusted the guides of his vision and his music to Robert Rich. Already the vision of the Scandinavian musician is very melodious and inspired by the Norwegian bard Erik Wollo. Now imagine this coupled with the very earthly vision of Robert Rich! So, here we have an electronic and organic fusion that gives very high and spicy emotion peaks of an incomparable sound richness. First and foremost, we must understand that PRECAMBRIAN is an album that orders a rendezvous. An album that does not tame at first listen, or the second by the way! A musical rendezvous that you set yourself to fully understand the sound dimension, excellent I must emphasize, of this album is a musical plot on the creation, the evolution of the Precambrian era. The beginning of our Earth. An ambitious musical project whose nuances and subtleties in sound aspects are a pure stroke of genius.
Water is a key sound element in this album. Carrying life, she will take different sonic forms that will make work our imagination. Overheating magma or a dead lake of fire that makes crackling sounds, Archean Eon screams acute synth strata and e-bow guitars whose scents sound belong to Erik Wollo. A greasy and furtive rhythm, like the song of a giant toad that comes and goes, turning like a needle-less compass, animates this ballet of evaporations of copper oil and ululations of this symbiosis synth (Sverre Knut Johansen) and floating guitar (Robert Rich). The structure of rhythm here literally plunges us into a batrachian zone with its tribal and Precambrian vision exceptionally well thought out. The organic essence, as well as this constant duel between the cosmic and planetary decorations, will be elements of seduction and of fascination throughout PRECAMBRIAN. The introduction of Proterozoic Eon is like an awakening to life! Chirping birds sing under a sun wave whose rays are personified by a zephyr blowing from afar and this fascinating combination synth and guitar-steel. Drums begin to dance with this strange organic tonality, a little as if vocal cords were fixed under the tense skin of the Aboriginal tom-toms, under these strata which become more and more poignant. The mix of breezes and of vampiric melodies from the synthesizer with the scarlet stratum coming out of Rich's six-strings gives an alloy of piercing vocals that hisses above these rhythmic elements that are sometimes disparate and also disappear quite quickly, letting life express itself through these spectral chants which cover a climatic evolution of a surrealist setting. Proterozoic Eon is therefore looking for a place where the azure winds encounter a phenomenon of rain before a form of clanic rhythm emerges in its last turn, even proposing an improbable Berliner structure. It's too much excitement for PRECAMBRIAN's atmospheres, and that's why Paleozoic Era tempers the climate with a soft lullaby played on a piano in a universe of fusion, in formation with its larvae of fire and its carbonic matter. Lost percussion, many rattling and chirping of baby birds admire this sweet lullaby for piano lost in the deepest regions of the Amazon.
Rain, waterfalls, thunders, volcanic explosions, paradisiacal bird songs and synth/guitar strata are the main sonic constellations of PRECAMBRIAN. They also nourish the slow displacement of Mesozoic Era which reaches an area of serenity where the tones can be as prehistoric as contemporary and where the hot winds muffle the waves of an ocean that takes its meals on an ice floe or in a constantly changing scenery. The tone of the harmonies is always sharp, and the seven minutes of Mesozoic Era are subject to many changes in the setting, including arrangements and elements of rhythm, to clearly identify our senses with the direction of music. Cenozoic Era reconciles us of this transient lack of homogeneity with a superb slow rhythm, always stimulated by organic pulsations, and harmonies that make an excellent transition with an orchestral vision and finally a beautiful stunning piano. In my opinion, these are the most beautiful moments on this album by Sverre Knut Johansen with Anthropocene, a title that goes very well with the ambiences of Cenozoic Era and Precambrian. This long title-song concludes this album with panache. In fact, it's like a musical digest of the whole album in 12 minutes. The thrill-giving strata and the rhythms that come and go with bizarre but so effective steps are the main ingredients. The tandem Johansen/Rich adds layers of voices and good orchestrations that encircle a sclerotic melody but makes its way into our eardrums. The piano adds a touch of melancholy to this structure whose rhythm remains the most constant throughout PRECAMBRIAN. Obviously, the sound fauna remains very representative of what we imagine from these years of prehistory. It's fully the kind of rather powerful title that makes us perplexed and makes us ask ourselves; did we miss something here? And we go back to Hadean Eon to restart the adventure. This is how I tamed these not always easy textures that are the prerogative of these complex works and which are often signatories of little masterpiece.
Sylvain Lupari (June 27th, 2019) ****½*
Available on Spotted Peccary