Review of Sval [12k1059]

Further Noise (.COM)

Sval is an excursion into deep ambience, subtly embellished with field recordings and sparse beats, further refining their richly textured take on ambient electronica. It’s a release that foregrounds soundscape-landscape parallels – a frequent theme in the semiotics of ambient, so much so as to be virtually a cliché of the genre; but it’s one which has been variably realised both in terms of effect/affect and quality, and Pjusk show here that they do it with finesse. The backdrop is a secluded mountain cabin deep in the Norwegian valleys, whose warm interior is effectively offset by the polar environs outside (sval means ‘cool’ according to my Norwegian-English translator). Anyway, it’s all subtly orchestrated atmospheric depth-soundings, with nicely tactile timbres, infusions of spectral vocals, and remote rhythmic elements. Processed environmental recordings effectively model the physical landscape, e.g., the airy drifts of “Skygge” or the teeming life within “Sus”. Generally, Sval represents a welcome return to 12k’s synthetic and digital roots, with the likes of “Glimt” closer to early Monolake than 12k’s recent flirtations with post-indie and j-pop derivations. It might be the country-kinsman aspect, but these ears detect a certain Biosphere-esque quality to it, at times recalling 90s ambient-electronic stylings, but the whole is constructed with a detail and production sensibility very much Of The Now. Musically modelling the soaring Nordic peaks, expanses of implacable tracts of fjords and barren tundra, resonant synth-sweeps swoop over rugged terrain with an earthy low-end support, and cast of crowing birds, creaking train-tracks, aircraft engine drone, cricket-chirp, streams and sundry peripheralia evoking isolation and remotion. This accomplished release illustrates the enduring breadth and strength of the microsound and minimalist tradition of the 12k/Line enterprise.

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