Review of Solstøv [12k1081]

Textura (CA)

Pjusk duo Jostein Dahl Gjelsvik and Rune Andre Sagevik receive significant contributions from Sleep Orchestra, Saffronkeira, Yui Onodera, and Taylor Deupree on their fourth full-length, but the one who plays the biggest part on the recording is Kåre Nymark Jr. And that’s not only because his trumpet playing is the lead instrument in a number of the album’s ten pieces, but more critically for the reason that Solstøv’s content is derived almost entirely from his trumpet, be it in natural or processed form.

Whereas Sleep Orchestra, Saffronkeira, and Yui Onodera contribute to the project as co-authors with Pjusk of individual tracks, Deupree adopts the role of sound manipulator in applying the sound design system Kyma to the trumpet to transform it into something resembling an alien life-force. Such manipulations open up the album’s sound world considerably in allowing it to expand dramatically beyond the acoustic realm. In the closing piece “Skimt,” for example, the trumpet becomes a veritable force-field of non-corporeal presences, beings liberated from their physical containers and free to merge with their brethren.

That being said, one of the most appealing things about the material is its oft-natural character. In keeping with a cover image that shows dandelion-like plant forms floating against a comparatively ambiguous speckled colour field, the music benefits from having Nymark Jr.’s trumpet playing appear against abstract backdrops. Never is that combination more dramatically evidenced than during “Glød” where his wail pierces the opaque haze generated by Pjusk.

The horn’s declamatory tone is the first sound one hears on the album—albeit in a form that suggests its muted blur has been multiplied by processing treatments. “Streif,” Pjusk’s collaboration with Sleep Orchestra, thus establishes the album’s distinctive sound world, which the pieces that follow readily reinforce. In “Gløtt,” the Saffronkeira collaboration that follows, Nymark Jr.’s trumpet is heard for the first time in its natural form, and the effect achieved in “Gløtt” is as stirring as that of “Streif,” despite the fundamental difference in the presentation of the trumpet. There are times during the hour-long set when one might be reminded of the playing of Jon Hassell and Nils Petter Molvær, especially when the trumpet appears embedded within glacial contexts such as those of “Diffus,” “Demring,” and “Sløret.” On those occasions where the trumpet’s natural quality recedes entirely from view, Pjusk’s soundscapes exhibit an abstract, even ghostly character that sees the duo suggesting commonalities with artists such as Biosphere and Netherworld. The contributions of guitarist Tor Anders Voldsund to a piece like “Falmet,” on the other hand, humanize Pjusk’s otherwise shadowy material through the audible touch of the human hand. Pulsation and rhythm, incidentally, aren’t foreign to the album—the plodding bass pulse within “Skimt,” for example, testifies to that—though they’re not central to it, either. The typical Pjusk setting derives its momentum from the sum-total of its sound design rather than elements conventionally associated with rhythm.

Regardless of whether a given track features the trumpet in its natural or altered form, Pjusk’s sound world is an inordinately luscious one that teems with a kind of verdant life, even if one electronically grown. The Norwegian duo also strengthens the recording’s immersive quality by eschewing pauses between the tracks, and consequently Solstøv deepens its ethereal sound design with the dream-like quality that resuts from an uninterrupted presentation.

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