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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.

 

12k

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

"DEATH'S LAST LIFE'S BREATH"
Beta-Lactam Ring
For the mere pittance of $4.00, Beta-Lactam Ring Records is offering the latest in its Beta-Beat Sampler series. Where previous volumes were quick-and-dirty, minimally packaged releases compiling and excerpting new and upcoming music on the label, Death's Last Life's Breath comes in a printed sleeve, and includes a brand new Nurse With Wound track exclusive to this compilation. And it's no mere fragmentary outtake meant to entice the unwary consumer, but an epic 15-minute fantasia of unhinged Stapletonian whimsy. "A Wasted Life of Phagocyte Foot Fetishism" plays like an extended, free-associating riff on the Space Age Bachelor Pad music for which Stapleton has always professed his affection. The track goes everywhere, of course, from a concert hall full of toy xylophones to sudden explosions of tabla rhythms, eventually floating up to a dense cloud bank of gently shimmering keyboards. If this were the only worthwhile track on Death's Last Life's Breath, it would still be more than worth the price of admission. Luckily, the rest of the nearly 80-minute disc is chock full of the kind of ear-opening sonic exploration I've come to expect from the Beta-Lactam label, from the lysergic folk of Japan's Green Milk From the Planet Orange to the eclectic, post-Prog collages of art-rock legends La STPO. Whitelodge's "Masters Within Spaces," excerpted from their soon-to-be-released debut, adds a level of post-rock sophistication to the melancholic, apocalyptic themes explored by esoteric mainstays Current 93 and Death in June. Judging by the distortion-blasted electro groove of "Comedown," Edward Ka-Spel's new Pieces of 8 promises to be his best in years. Matt Waldron's irr.app.(ext.) project continues to find new non-corporeal identities in the labyrinthine inner workings of memory and synchronicity, on full display in a truly unsettling excerpt from the forthcoming Perekluchenie album. Beequeen's "I'm Searching For Field Character" is a perfectly mysterious concoction of drones, dialogue samples and all manner of indescribable textures. It came down to two choices this week: feed and clothe my Somalian sponsor kid for another month, or use my loose pocket change to buy Death's Last Life's Breath. Sorry about the lack of clean drinking water, N'Dugu, but I'll be happy to burn you a copy of this CD.

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