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Disk one : Silent Currents 1
Part 1-12 (52:28) recorded at STAR’S END, WXPN, Philadelphia, PA, USA, April 27th 2002.
Disk two : Silent Currents 2
Part 1-14 (51:43) recorded at STAR’S END, WXPN, Philadelphia, PA, USA, October 28th 2007.
A portion of the proceeds from Silent Currents are donated to CIMA of PA, the non-profit corporation responsible for The Gatherings Concert Series.
The 2CD Silent Currents showcases a different side of Erik Wøllo’s sound. Here he explores fascinating electronic / ambient landscapes with slow-motion structures, surreal soundscapes and floating currents. Drawn from two separate live radio broadcasts, 104 minutes of music traverse a more ambient, atmospheric and textural side than experienced on his other albums. Recorded in the studio of the famous Star’s End radio show in Philadelphia, these performances from 2002 and 2007 are each a disc-long continuous piece with several chapters. With more focus on the deep drones than on melody and rhythm, zones drift and morph, organically flowing into each other. Layers of electronics and processed sound combine with light touches of electric guitar melody floating on top. Quiet, sparse and gentle electronic music with ambient passages mix with occasions of sequencer pulses.
Silent Currents is the 15th release from the Norwegian guitarist, synthesist and composer following his successful 2010 Projekt release, Gateway. In June, Wøllo released The Road Eternal collaboration with Steve Roach succeeding their 2009 joint effort, Stream of Thought; both essential albums in the electronic genre introduced a new audience to Wøllo’s personal signature of introspective atmospherics.
Star’s End is one of the longest-running radio programs of ambient music in the world. Since 1976, this show has provided the Philadelphia broadcast area with weekly midnight musical adventures. Erik says, “I have been kindly invited to perform at Star’s End multiple times. To perform ‘on the air’ late at night in the radio studio contributed to these unique and inspired performances. In this setting, it felt very natural to do some downtempo and quiet, floating ambient music. Thus, this release is more abstract and chilled out than I usually present on my studio albums. Some elements of the music was improvised; I brought various sound excerpts, loops and atmospheres, and performed and composed these into long continuous zones, all done in real time.”
Chuck Van Zyl, host of Star’s End adds, “Over the years Star’s End has hosted many live to air concerts, usually with artists fresh from The Gatherings Concert Series stage. The act of playing a second, more intimate concert after a public event provides a sense of summation to a powerful experience. But the unique radio venue also offers musicians a space for discovery, as they turn from focused music for The Gatherings community to atmospheres for an audience each in their own dream space. Erik Wøllo enthusiastically embraces this idea using his on-air concerts to explore moods and zones only found in the late hour and unconventional situation. There is an interesting energy arcing through Silent Currents: Erik descends into himself, realizing music completely in the moment. The resulting new works are wonderful expressions of ambience, texture and this artist’s potent sense of drama as Wøllo creates space, then fills it with ever-evolving sound.”
With his focus on the deep drones and interwoven ambient tributaries, Wøllo creates a vivid soundtrack for the senses, taking the listener to the outer reaches of the imagination. Impressionistic electronic / ambient music at its best! Relax and float on the Silent Currents.
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Reviews Editor –
Anyone who’s seen an ambient/electronic musician perform live would probably admit that aside from the visuals typically splashed across the space during the show, there’s not a whole lot to see. The artist hunches over a couple of laptops, lays hands on a keyboard now and then and, if you’re lucky, might break out a guitar or a didgeridoo. The upside of this is that it allows you, the listener/attendee, to drop into the sound and focus more deeply on the movement and evolution of the music as it emerges and develops, free of worrying that you’re going to miss a power-chord knee-slide across the stage or a massive eruption of pyrotechnics. You can be more deeply involved in what the music’s doing to you.
It’s that practiced sound-evolution and captivating narrative flow that marks the two concerts captured on Erik Wøllo’s two-disc release, Silent Currents. Recorded in 2005 and 2007 at the WXPN studios during broadcasts of the Star’s End show and immediately following live shows at Philadelphia’s renowned The Gatherings concert series, Silent Currents benefits from Wøllo’s post-concert momentum and the kind of flowing creativity that hits when you’re still performing at around two in the morning. Wøllo builds his sets from pre-established/pre-programmed grooves and soundspaces, then augments them with improvised passages.
Disc One opens in a strong ambient space, Wøllo paving the way in bold drones that build in thickness before settling back to a more open space. Five tracks in he subtly folds in a beat that bubbles along in the flow and the timbre of the piece begins to shift. A gentle melody replaces the drifts and Wøllo brings in the sweet sighs and cries of his signature guitar work, high notes that pair off against the pads. In track eight Wøllo brings in, for lack of a better word, church organ tones that play humbly over wavering synths. It’s another of those evolutionary moments that absolutely seize your attention without disrupting your personal place in the drift. Track 11, although only two minutes long, is another, adding a potent pulse with the arrival of big, aggressive drum beats that ramp up the moment before Wøllo again lets things slide back down to a quiet, cleansing finish.
Disc Two opens in a darker space, shadowy and slow-moving with things lurking at the edges. Guitar shimmers and tinkling chimes drift in to lighten the space as Wøllo opens the scope of sound. Insectile analog skitterings, familiar to anyone who’s listened to Steve Roach lately, take over, making their tracks across softly rolling pads that rise in intensity to mark a new passage. Wøllo moves into a softly rhythmic zone with track four, and lets the guitar come forward. Around track five Wøllo takes us back into the darkness, heightening the gloom and unease across the next couple of tracks. By track seven it’s all around, a perfectly shadow-encased atmosphere that moves slowly forward. A guitar line in track eight accents the emotion, picking its way with sinister aspect through the fog. Here again is an example of Wøllo’s artistry; slowly the tone lightens and we emerge into a broader space, the guitar rising and brightening and the whole of the thing simply shifting to present a new vision–seamlessly. The transition is amazing. Meanwhile, back to those attention-grabbing moments–the short track 11 introduces a fresh electronic sound, like raindrops on guitar strings that, having done their job in basically introducing the last stretch of the disc, fade to make way for long pads. Wøllo closes out pairing the guitar with the sound of lapping water. A smooth analog rhythm comes up from under to energize the space. In the last five minutes Wøllo floats long, quiet pads through the space and, with a light hand on the controls, dusts them with disparate and contrasting sounds that fade to a final hushed sigh.
The concerts were just two years apart and Wøllo has a very distinct sound and approach, so the two discs can feel a little similar in places if they’re listened to back-to-back. But both are so smooth and elegantly constructed that similarity become a less-than-minor consideration. Taken as a pair of hour-long sonic moments in time they’re perfect ambient-music listens, exemplifying what one guy can do when he’s hunched over some laptops with a guitar. Not a lot to see, but very, very much to hear. Wøllo is a master craftsman and Silent Currents shows him at his best. It’s a Hypnagogue Highly Recommended CD.