Here at New Noise we welcome a variety of noises, whether that be rowdy punk, soulful rock n’ roll, hard-hitting metal and even electronic soundscapes like this one from Norwegian composer Erik Wollo. Wollo has been in the business for thirty-five years now and has crafted a myriad of different worlds for you to explore within that span of time. His latest album is no different, as it packs nearly three hours of electronic musings into a double-disc effort that will surely stand to be one of his greatest. The recording actually comprises of two different moods, one being “Low Winter Sun” and the other “Mystical Sun.” In order to properly review such a massive monolith, I’ll have to cover both releases separately in order to give you a proper feel for the experiences that you’re about to witness with each performance.
“Low Winter Sun” starts us off with a couple of very active electronic waves, which do not sound unlike any sort of spaceship music from a video game. I’ve used this classification before, but it still feels similar here. There’s nothing wrong with that, as those pieces come off quite hummable and only add to the experience of playing such a game. They could also work well in a movie, or anything needing a comfortable electronic experience. None of these pieces come off in any way harmful and are more relaxing than anything else. “Church Mountain” slows things down a little to add waves crashing against rocks, which brings us into a very calm and less active state than the music of the prior pieces. “Similar World” picks it back up just a little, before we end up right on the surface of an underwater world in “Past Theme.” If you can’t hear the bubbles popping, then you are simply not using your imagination proficiently enough. “Hydra” almost enters dance territory, while “Kaleidoscope” brings me into a sort of mystical world where things are not what they seem to be. It feels as if I’m trapped in a kind of colorful tunnel to which every corridor leads to simply another hue and shade of the previous, eventually dazzling me beyond comprehension. There are also hints of guitar to be found on the album, as one might sense with “Evening Island” where slight riffs appear to add a sort of romance to the electronic seafoam that decorates the background of this piece. “Memory Space” then is a perfect send-off, as it more or less sounds like a world of thoughts and memories might be expected to. Some people would pro-port that non-corporeal worlds sound exactly like this. They may very well be right.
The second performance we have here is “Mystical Sun” which is a bit different, as it focuses on a style that is you guessed it – more mystical and ritualistic than the spatial themes governed by the previous recording. The very introduction alone is something that I might consider commonplace in a realm full of gods. Actual deities, whether they were here first or man-made. This is where the collective unconscious (yes, I did say collective unconscious) would place them. That being said, “Chroma” rolls directly into the robotic landscapes of the previous disc and changes my interpretation of the performance quite a bit. Perhaps “Mystical Sun” is not so far removed from “Low Winter Sun” after all. “Motion Blue” has an Asian inspired feel to me, as it also adds in some dance-flair. It is too rhythmic for meditation though. “The Morph” feels very crystalline, as light reflects off several mirrors and creates an incredible amount of melody. “Rundriese” actually feels a bit Blade Runner though, which brings me right back into the futuristic landscapes I observed on the sister disc. Not nitpicking, I still feel it is a strong track. “Circle Dream” is a piece made for meditational reflection, though it is quite short. It also feels a bit like a church organ, as odd as that sounds. “Pilgrim Way” seems to meld acoustic guitar in with beat heavy synths, which can almost come off a little dance-friendly in itself. “Cascade Falls” brings in the beat even harder, really allowing us a chance to get right on the proverbial dance floor. I’m certainly not upset by it, as I do remember a publishing group who used to make a type of weird pornography by which tracks like this were used in a sort of more sensual, less aggressive and far more fantastical manner that I don’t think went any further than a few films. Unfortunate, as music of this type really works to sell a fantasy of any type, whether that is a science-fiction media, a talk with gods, or just romantic sex. Wollo really does it all here and I’m more than appreciative to have the ability to share that here with you today. “Mirror Lake” slows things down a bit, making me think of two individuals romantically holding hands while watching the flow of the stream. It even features some water effects towards the latter portion of the song, really playing on that vibe. “Afterglow” feels like the kind of music you might hear in the robot afterworld, if such a place existed. We are given long enough a glimpse at such an odd realm, until the proverbial doors are shut and all of the whirring slows to a halt. “Elysium” ends the piece on a dancey, bubbly note. It also contains some actual vocal elements – something I’ve never heard on an Erik Wollo record before.
I truly think that Wollo is creating two different kinds of soundscapes here: The first kind would be that of the human race as a space-faring species, and the second would be that of the afterworld atmospheres that we’ll experience if we somehow manage to end up extinct. Even so, both paths seem to take a very positive vibe and there is no discernible ill will that I can detect on this album. Wollo seems to be demonstrating the sounds of what we could be and what we have the potential to be, rather than the more frightening aspects of who we are at current. Perhaps these records will come as a refreshing glass of water to those who are looking for something a little more calm, yet still upbeat enough to get them moving. Without a doubt, Wollo has done it again and there’s absolutely no stopping him. It’s easy to see why he is a master of electronic ambiance.