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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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Disappears, "Era"

cover imageThis Chicago band’s career trajectory has been a singularly impressive and curious one, as they have somehow managed to continually reinvent their sound while still getting exponentially better with each new album.  Era makes that trend seem even more remarkable, as Disappears have made yet another huge leap forward despite tampering with what was arguably their best feature (Brian Case's dissolute-sounding, deadpan vocals) and losing drummer Steve Shelley to Lee Ranaldo's new band.   As it turns out, neither are missed, as the band more than compensate by paring their aesthetic down to pummeling, machine-like precision mingled with great hooks and well-placed eruptions of chaos.


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