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Henrik von Euler ~ Små Vågor 6 / The Golden Age of Wrestling ~ Scorpion Deathlock

Написано на 08.02.2024

Some of our favourite compositions are abstract soundscapes, avoiding musical progression in favour of detailed texture. Stepping into a space of dispersed, textural detail is a liberating escape. We may need an occasional reminder: large subsets of ambient music have remained wedded to melody and rhythm. They still bring contemplative immersion, but also the structured pull of jeopardy, suspense, and resolution. From despair to elation, melody has a heightened power to convey emotional experience. Differing hugely in sound and approach, two new albums share a lively and melodic approach. Both go beyond pure ambience, borrowing from other styles as they explore. The first enriches a vintage approach to ambient music. The second attempts to form a new sub-genre of its own.

Readers who haven’t heard of Henrik von Euler: he is pretty big deal in Stockholm. Performing in diverse range of groups, Euler has also been busy running the Flora & Fauna label for the past fifteen years. From the late 1990s, he has released music under various solo pseudonyms, ranging from hip-hop to electro-pop to the Nordic skweee style. In 2015, he adopted the alias Små Vågor [small waves], beginning a series of ambient records that are diverse in sound and rich in detail.  Pulse-driven, electronic expanses; darkly cosmic excursions; cinematic cold-wave instrumentals: the series takes in a range of styles that reward your exploration. With the advent of the fifth release, Henrik von Euler appeared as the artist name, and the music veered towards piano-driven, organic ambience. Små Vågor 6 retains both these adjustments. Taken as a whole, the Små Vågor albums recollect Hans-Joachim Roedelius’s “Selbstportrait” series. Euler uses ambience as a method of circling back to resurgent concerns and senses of self. In the process, he hits upon a style that fuses the synthetic and organic in melody-driven ambience, comparable to Rodelius’s “soft music”.

The album opens with footsteps over thickets, leading us into tranquil clearings where cold piano keys meet warm synth. This sets the tone for a record where Euler’s keys and synths take turns creating a groundwork of circling motifs. He is joined by a wealth of expressive string, with guest musicians on bass, double bass, cello, and guitar. Euler extracts maximum emotional and narrative potential from a carefully curated set of ingredients. Like a chef who refuses to throw too much on the plate, Euler draws out a crystalline consommé of sound. Reflective piano phrases repeated over bowed strings. Whirling backdrops of slow and fast rhythmic layers. Brief intrusions of rock instrumentation, with both muscular and somnolent guitar. Multi-timbral sketchbooks of evocative lyricism. The album is familiar in its individual parts, but blends them in a striking range of effects.

There is very little percussion throughout this release. The rhythmic repetition of phrases within layered instrumentation serves as a replacement. Changes in pace or intensity control the music, whilst the to-and-fro of the cello offers a respiratory tempo to some tracks. The seventh piece, “Lom i fjärden”, is notable for its commitment to jazz (a style that remains in the background for much of Eluer’s music). Synthesised woodwind repeats lyrically against a reverberating backdrop of strings. Keys take the limelight with a clean, bold melody ­­– straight from the hard bop playbook. As Euler adds layers of pared-back sound, this composition ascends from the simple to the sublime. All the elements stand in clear distinction, testament to the skill on this record, both in front of the mic and behind the mixing deck.

 

Jeff Cancade has more than a decade’s tenure in the Vancouver music scene, mainly releasing charismatic electropop under his Devours alias. Last year’s Homecoming Queen is a treasure trove of retro, synthetic sounds. Updated for 2023, they are gelled together by Cancade’s maudlin songs of heartbreak and triumph. Since 2019, he has been developing a side-line in ambient music under an irresistible moniker, The Golden Age of Wrestling. Scorpion Deathlock is the third full-length release of this project, following Tombstone Piledriver (2020) and Crossface Chicken Wing (2022). With all three records named after pro wrestling moves, Cancade knows how to commit to a theme. In his aesthetics and stage persona, Cancade embraces camp and celebrates queerness. His ambient project embodies this, as a homo-erotic homage to the performed masculinity of theatrical wrestling. Appearing in a glittering cape, the musician’s persona makes a dazzling appearance in the scripted drama. Anonymous under his costume, our athlete may be a “face” (a good guy) or a “heel” (a pantomime baddie). Whatever his allegiance, his entrance music is something Cancade calls “glambient”. His signature move is to throw glitz and glitter in the face of the ambient scene.

Though the project is a love letter to pro wrestling, the music itself is more enthralled by pop, club, and videogame sounds. The opening two tracks are upbeat hyperpop, with bright, insistent keyboard, processed vocal snippets, dancefloor build-ups, retrobright surfaces, a saccharine chiptune loop, and a guitar solo finale. This energetic opening is the feint of an expert combatant. As the album settles into slower ambient territory, we are left feeling the slow build-up to a dancefloor euphoria that never arrives. It is a place of anticipation and uncertainty where discordant textures cut shapes. Even the more percussive tracks lead revellers into a the reflective chillout room. “Strawberry” is on the verge of kicking into a trap beat, but the booms of drum transition into melancholy repetition, wordless harmonising, an evocatively swelling cloudscape. “Born Inside a Cactus” has IDM genetics, starting from a low bass drum and clicking restlessness. Rising into nebulous chants and strings, the track then falls back into soft piano before the come-up arrives. This is an album of ups and downs which takes timbre and structure from club music, but turns kinetic energy into brooding vignettes.

Sometimes Cancade is able to square the circle, with club sounds moving us into ambience, ambience ushering us back to the dance. The combination comes with strong possibilities for narrative movement, especially with a sprinkle of vocal power borrowed from the Devours project. “Hollywood Loves You” captures the LA heat rising in mirages, whilst diffuse touches of key and string are twinkling stars on a filmset evening. A single phrase, “make it all go away”, circles the scene, acquiring different emotions each time it passes. “Paperhouse” has a greater concentration of vocals, capturing the contradictions of heartbreak: “I don’t care about you, babe” / “What did I do to hurt you so?”. Processed, chopped, and repeated, the short phrases form an extended tale of emotion over drawn-out notes and a melancholic keyboard loop. Darkened, bassy drones lead us into sparkling clusters of chimes. Bright, lifting ambience gives resolution to the story, with no further need for words. Such lightness of touch makes this a memorable record, fun and moving in equal measure. (Samuel Rogers)

About Samuel Rogers

Thanks for reading! In his day job, Sam Rogers is a lecturer, researcher and associate director at the University of the West of England, Bristol. His specialist area is modern and contemporary poetry. Sam likes to have more than ten albums under consideration, waiting for the perfect joint review to present itself.



Некоторые из наших любимых композиций – это абстрактные звуковые пейзажи, избегающие музыкального прогресса в пользу детальной текстуры. Это освобождающее путешествие. glVertexBufferDataих новых альбомов разделяют живое и мелодичное приближение. Оба выходят за рамки чистой атмосферы, заимствуя из других стилей при исследовании.

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