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Pjusk, "Sval"

cover imageThis is one of the cases where the artists’ environment clearly comes across in their recorded output.  Hailing from Norway, the duo of Pjusk weave digital soundscapes that are cold and icy, yet have an inviting warmth to them, like a fireplace heated cabin amongst the frozen tundra.  Their second album is a gloriously minimal piece of subtle melody and texture that reveals more the closer it is listened to.

 

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Pjusk - Sval

Immediately upon its opening, "Valldal" tosses sheets of torrential rain in before pulling back, leaving just the most barest of ambient pastiches intermingling with low bit rate percussive crunches, soft static, and electronics pulsing away.  While it has a sparse, frigid quality to it, it is still compelling and inviting.  Weather makes its way into the short track "Juv," with its lo-fi ambience, static, and icy winds, and "Vidde," where it is heavily panned and has a metallic, almost industrial quality to the sound.

My personal favorite moments come with the more textural studies of sound, like the warm, campfire like crackles of "Skygge" that glow amongst digital buzzing that’s panned around, acting like a bit of chaos next to the relative calm.  Similarly, there is some great rhythmic textures at the end of "Glimt," which proceed a wide variety of sounds, resembling massive church organs, chimes, bowed cymbals, and even a bit of lonely guitar that shines through.  "Demring" also has a slight rhythm, but it is obscured by thick clouds of sound, echoed rattles intertwining with what sounds like a Hammond organ.

While it never reaches any level that it could be danced to, some of the tracks do show tinges of conventional electronica.  The clicks that resemble horse gallops on “Sus” develop in complexity but are wrapped in gauzy ambience and lush melodic passages.  Melody also dominates "Skodde" and "Skumring," with the latter underpinned by deep percussive pulses, static-y distortion, and lonely piano notes.  On "Dis," soft and gentle female vocals appear alongside piano and swelling oscillators, creating a spaciousness that is sparse, but at the same time captivating.

Like a warm refuge in an arctic winter, Pjusk creates inviting digital ambient music with a shimmering natural glow.  Even when the sounds of the cold Norwegian environs appear, they never take on a dark or unfriendly character.  The result is a beautiful combination of subtle melody and texture study that is a very diverse, yet coherent work on its own.  Now that spring is rearing its head in the northeast US, it’s a fitting soundtrack, but I know I’ll keep this one near when the days begin to get shorter again.

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Review of the Day

Thomas Köner, "Daikan"
Mille Plateaux
After my first listen to this album at a low volume level, I was a little worried because there didn't seem to be much going on; but luckily, subsequent listens on a decent system revealed a great level of detail, much of it buried under immense low end. The focal point is the periodic repetition of a low-pass-filtered percussive sound, stretched out to such an extent that its booming decay lingers long enough to reveal the slow fluctuations of a vibrating membrane. This is accompanied by a harmonically rich, but somewhat muted, midrange drone that very slowly fades from complete silence to full volume and then back again to nothingness, bringing new layers of sound with each iteration. The tonal elements resemble Köner's more recent Unerforschtes Gebiet recording in their texture and evocation of abandoned places. Here they are softer. The percussion and gradual variations in amplitude lend a mysterious—and somewhat human—element to an otherwise uninhabited landscape. Midway through the piece, the drone descends rather conspicuously through four closely-spaced notes, in what is reminiscent of a threateningly futuristic movie soundtrack. After this big event, some quiet, almost mechanical, filtered noise emerges, along with repeated bass-rich volume swells that sound like more stretched out percussion, this time played backwards. The slight hissing and patient rise and fall in volume are like breathing; and the middle part of this recording is really quite beautiful, despite the abundance of low-end making it almost claustrophobic and morose. Shades of the descending melody are audible as the original sounds return, and the drum sound re-enters and grows more and more extended throughout the remainder of the piece. It finally ends with a sustained rumble. Even with the limited range of sound that Köner seems to have confined himself to, Daikan is quite stunning and is a fine addition to the Köner collection. 

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