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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

Sverre Knut Johansen The Vast Expanse (2018)

Updated: Sep 25, 2022

“The Vast Expanse is this kind of sonic jewels collection that aims particularly to fans of a more melodious EM”

1 Origins of the Universe 9:12 2 The Vast Expanse 5:51 3 Emotion Strata 5:41 4 Space and Time 9:31 5 The Beginning 11:20 6 DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) 4:09 7 Perfect Creation 6:33 8 Abiogenesis 6:09 Spotted Peccary | SPM-3003

(CD 58:29) (V.F.) (Melodious cinematographic E-Rock)

What a beautiful artist this Sverre Knut Johansen is! His compositions are melodious with a cinematic vision that is not unlike that of Vangelis. Flanked by David Helpling and his shadows of spectral guitars, the Norwegian multi-musician signs here a work inspired by the Big Bang theory and the writings of astrophysicist Stephen Hawking. THE VAST EXPANSE is the third album of SKJ on the American label Spotted Peccary. It cements his reputation as a melodist and orchestral arranger with nearly 60 minutes of an EM where the complexity lies in nice textures of moods rich in tones but especially in orchestrations where the genres of David Wright and Mike Oldfield are only at an ear-jet.

A buzz and multicolored strata which get deform according to their tones open the ambiences decor of Origins of the Universe. The slow waltz of the sound effects gives a feeling of slow motion to the 90 seconds of the opening where are added breaths of voices and more aggressive sound elements, including tears of synth (guitar?) which seem to put the brakes so as not to crush the origins of the universe. White noises, pulsations and organic whispers fill these moods while moving towards a very lively pulsating beat, but the race is significantly slowed by the mass of very colorful sound effects and the roars of a synth to sharp colors. It's on the edge of the 4 minutes that the rhythm runs away in a semi-dance approach with its sequences, its percussion and its rattling. The melodic skills fill the second portion of Origins of the Universe. Always wrapped in orchestral arrangements which make it twirl, the rhythm hosts not 2 melodic strategies, but 3 with keyboard chords, orgasmic voice sings and synth sighs. These elements converge into a beautiful earworm that sticks to our eardrums and intertwine their magnetizing charms in a rhythmic whirlwind well surrounded by multiple orchestral arrangements, it's like in the days of Giorgio Moroder, and by that Elven siren voice who will bewitching in several places in THE VAST EXPANSE. Origins of the Universe set the tone for a high-pitched album in tonal colors with catchy and sometimes magnetizing rhythms where chills for dreamy souls are at the turn of each title. The structures are in evolutionary modes, passing from openings paved with atmospheric elements to embryonic rhythms which progress towards a Berlin School a la Erik Wollo or a music which will bring your feet back to life. The title-track evolves in these parameters to rely on a pulsating rhythm where a river of orchestrations and fragments of lunar melody are clinging. Here again, it's very David Wright or Code Indigo, and it's especially comfortable to the ears. In fact, we are not very far of a Yanni style of melodic New Age. But there is more! A harmonic filament escapes from the title and overflows into the territories of Emotion Strata which is a superb melody nesting in the effects of vertical jerks from a bed of staccato orchestrations. The piano and keyboard are impregnated with tenderness, while the synth completes this trio of electronic romance with well-drawn dreams in a soundscape which gains in intensity. Space and Time is my favorite title of this album. It's a beautiful, an intrusive Berlin School with a spiral of slow-motion sequences whose influences seem to come from Erik Wollo's floating sequential movements. The structure presents halftone sequences which spin with zigzags in a spheroidal race beneath the stars and under layers of cosmic mist and of astral voices. It's these zigzags that catch the magnetizing effect of this title of which the cosmic textures of David Helpling's guitar are floating like a large white cover to which is clinging a chant of Perseids. The first 3 minutes are ambient moves as I like them. With its sonic painting rich in different textures and additional sequences, the walking rhythm reaches a more intense level in its decoration than in its rhythm, sparing the various fragments of melodies and lyrical effects which mate on a path dominated by rather cinematic intensity changes, including a unique and delicate lunar moment. The Beginning walks on the ashes of Space and Time, but with more grip, more dramatic emphasis in its rhythm while the decor is filled of multiple textures of ambiences and of seductive percussive effects. A beautiful melody, sculpted in the parameters of the album, clings to the different evolutions of this long title, both symphonic and cinematographic. DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is an atmospheric title with orchestral impulses guiding a slow staccato and its caramelized tone of metal writhing in a bath of scarlet magma. Perfect Creation is a title which sounds a bit like the title track. It's lively, not too much on the other hand, with a nice melodious envelope which flirts with the New Age essences, for the melody, and the Berlin School, for the sequences and some textures of well-garnished ambiences. Abiogenesis ends THE VAST EXPANSE with a nice lunar ballad approach where Sverre Knut Johansen spreads all his talent of multi-instrumentalist. There is a good mix of electronics and acoustics on this title of which progression borrows the structures of Space and Time and The Beginning, two of the very beautiful jewels of this last opus of Sverre Knut Johansen which is aimed mainly to fans of a more musical than complex form of EM with melodies and rhythms which remain tie to our senses all day long.

Sylvain Lupari (June 8th, 2018) ***** Available at Spotted Peccary Bandcamp

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