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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

the sea and cake, "glass"
Thrill Jockey
Hot on the heels of this year's full-length release, One Bedroom, The Sea and Cake continue to indulge in their newfound electronic revelry with this seven-track EP. Glass, which clocks in at just over 37 minutes, is comprised of four non-album tracks and three remixes of songs from the album. Versions One and Two of "To the Author" carry the synth melodies one step further than similarly constructed tracks on One Bedroom. The tempo is noticably quicker than the usual Sea and Cake fare, and buzzing, spacious keyboards (which sound much like those used recently on their playful cover of David Bowie's "Sound and Vision") provide an excellent compliment to the processed guitars and Sam Prekop's bouncy vocals. "Traditional Wax Coin" goes in a slightly different direction with a chilled-out—even minimal—jazz infusion. "An Echo In," which is closest in style to their latest album, has nice melody and instrumentation, but ultimately suffers from flat, lukewarm vocals. The remixes are done by kindred indie spirits Stereolab and Broadcast (the latter of whom The Sea and Cake toured with in 2000), and Detroit technohead Carl Craig. Stereoab's "Tea and Cake" remix of "Hotel Tell" strips the original down to a lush, exotic lullabye, while Broadcast lend "Interiors" a heavy dose of their own tripped-out, psychedelia with loads of reverb and shards of synths. Craig's reworking of "Hotel Tell" turns the original into an ass-shakin', bass-thumping dancefloor cut, which is bound to ellicit either a chuckle or a shudder from longtime fans of the band.

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