2 Distant Thunder
4 Sound and Shadows
6 Arcos Iris
7 Peace Bells
9 Still Water
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Join veteran Norwegian ambient/electronic artist Erik Wøllo on a sonorous travelogue through daring, contrasting places and states of mind. Since the early eighties, Wøllo has created peerless electronic music, and Sojourns advances with nine captivating pieces. His 36th release is a sound-trip of bold and shimmering cycles of enduring, energizing music.
Erik reflects: “A sense of being somewhere for a moment, a Sojourn. That is what I work to achieve in my music. I explore the idea of sound as a place in time: how each composition on an album is a place to be with its own story to tell. I ask myself how it can affect a listener’s perception. Creating an aesthetic that imbues an atmosphere which allows us the freedom to drift off into virtual mental wanderings. To stay there temporarily, and then move on to the next place, to the next piece of music. In a mind frame in which we experience psychological events, a continuous passage of existence. Where events pass from a state of future potential through the present to a state of past finality like a memory.”
The first track “Memory Waves” is a dwelling slow motion EBow intro that moves into “Distant Thunder” with mounting percussion loops steadily energizing the listening space with guitar and synth strings keening through cavernous reverberation. The title track “Sojourn” is a hypnotic and drifting rhythmic track with shifting themes and intervening patterns. A calmer mood comes out in selections like “Gravity” and “Peace Bells,” again with a contemplative and authoritative soaring guitar EBow that leads the course ahead. The finale “Still Water” has a more introverted and fragile form that shines with a soft tremulous light. All 9 tracks possess a sense of drama, captivating as well as enigmatic, always Wøllo trademarks.
Throughout, Wøllo maintains the feel of crossing a majestic landscape over the earth and beneath the stars. Images border on dreams within these seductive Sojourns.
Reviews Editor –
The tablecloth undulates, proud, serene. Galvanized by the notes played at the EBow, the movement is spectral, on the borders of an ethereal territory where time and space no longer exist… Thus begins Sojourns, Erik Wøllo’s thirty-sixth solo album. This preamble sets the tone: the record invites you to travel, to dream, the sounds produced transport us to a celestial elsewhere. We find the space ambient impulses typical of the Norwegian on “Memory Waves” and especially “Gravity”, an aerial cavalcade that Alpha Wave Movement would not deny. Wøllo’s vision, initiated in the early eighties, to enchant the listener reaches its climax here. Previously, he had already particularly impressed us with his Blue Radiance (2015), but this new vintage truly touches the heights. Because for a good ten years the guitarist has considerably refined his style. He manages to weave extremely deep and enveloping atmospheres, without denying the more organic aspect induced by the beat.
Take the example of “Sojourn 1”, it is an elegantly groovy, almost lounge track. The pulsation also marks “Sojourn 2”, an almost tribal and rather lively track, but whose ethnic character did not fully convince us (just like “Chrysalis”, a conventional new age element). Sojourns‘ Essential is embodied in this desire to escape, sometimes tinged with nostalgia. “Sound and Shadows” thus asserts itself as the title expressing the most powerfully these feelings, with its romantic phases and its sequenced electronica. Wøllo has a marked identity, but we find various influences, enriching his art with exquisite references. A certain Asian form halos “Shimmer”, like an invocation of the spirit of Ryuichi Sakamoto, the atmospheric guitar of “Peace Bells” undoubtedly recalls Jeff Pearce and we are totally hovering on “Still Water”, a kosmische flight of the best effect. The Scandinavian, who is also very productive, continues to trace his formidable furrow with mad grace. Rating: 90% -Olivier Bernard
Reviews Editor –
For those who have followed Erik Wøllo from the beginning in the early 80s, his origins as a jazz guitarist were extremely impressive but only the first step of a very long trajectory, which has, since his third album Traces, been steeped in ambient elements, the art of composing on electric guitar in a way that doesn’t sound much like a guitar at all, instead more like a synthesizer, due to the heavy use of all kinds of effects and loops. It was at least another seven years before what he was doing began to make sense to me and eventually touch my soul. But what really opened my ears and eyes was seeing his performance at Soundquest Fest 2021, forever preserved on his album Winter Tide — the hour-long video of the entire performance is still floating around out on the internet, and worth tracking down.
Here at the beginning of 2022, three albums and less than one year later, Wøllo presents his latest endeavor, a wonderful shimmering ten-track album titled Sojourns, each piece serving as a powerful image in an ongoing journey, where the listener’s mind can wander freely. No two pieces are alike; each has its own character and ability to spark the imagination in an entirely new way. The opener, “Memory Waves,” simply floats between a few lush chords, with layers and layers of sound painting a vivid picture in the listener’s mind. “Sojourn 1” carries on from where the opener ends; colorful soaring sounds exist within a backdrop of swirling textural sequences, and light percussion is introduced to the set, although the percussion-free floating beauty of the piece’s last few minutes truly offers a complete and dramatic escape. “Sojourn 2” comes much later in the program, and bears little resemblance to the first part, other than in some general terms, the percussion here seems more of a sequenced synth beat floating inside a maelstrom of beautiful sounds. The appropriately tiled “Sound and Shadows” finds its way through a web of mysterious cavernous floating drifts, while gently sweeping sonic clouds surround the repeating notes that ring out in the memorable “Peace Bells.” A sense of peace, calm, and diffusion imbue the listener along the path on “Gravity.” Every piece on Sojourns paints a new image that a listener can easily get lost within. -Peter Thelen
Reviews Editor –
From Possible Musics
A dive into the musical universe of Norwegian musician Erik Wøllo with a space-ambient album whose atmospheres and sounds bring us back to the 80s.
Erik Wøllo is what you might call a veteran of the Norwegian electronic ambient scene. He is the author to date of a good thirty albums published on various labels since the beginning of the 80s without having achieved the fame of certain artists who have made themselves known in the ambient genre over the past decades.
Sojourns‘ tracks are built with synth patterns looped with variations or cold pads with here and there minimalist beats. We will classify the whole in a space-ambient register which at times gives the impression of traveling back in time, with pieces whose atmospheres and sounds will evoke Tangerine Dream as well as Vangelis or even Ryuichi Sakamoto.
A set of fairly cinematic titles that often take us back to the 80s with its tunes from a science fiction or fantasy film soundtrack. An ageless record that will allow you to discover or rediscover a rather discreet artist, now 61 years old.
reviews editor –
From Star’s End
Over his many years of music-making Erik Wøllo has developed a striking, elegant vocabulary – which explains the lasting wonderment of his work. Sojourns (62’05”) casts ten lush arrangements brimming with promise. An extension of secret thought, here the most dramatic shifts are of the emotional kind. With melodies as immaculate as ever the liquid articulation of electric guitar arches upward in a studied sensitivity. The ascending and descending progressions of scales play out in a staggered staccato of sequencer patterns. The pulse, sometimes hesitant, remains alert, and Sojourns travels fleetly even while weighted in detail. A faint underlying rhythm drifts from the sonically spectral to the expressively enigmatic. A prowling arpeggio echoes in hollowed-out harmonies mysteriously suspended between major and minor. Further in, the withdrawn atmosphere gives way to the tempestuous, as the mood swings softly from one piece to the next. Fragile and hesitant, leisurely and contemplative, then bursting with exuberance, these compositions are among Wøllo’s most clearheaded. As the materiality of the instruments disappears, we forget all about the smooth, shimmering synthesizers, and the steel strings of the guitar – about the tools it takes to produce such a sound. The cooly controlled performance and studio atmosphere gives way to a beautiful dream logic – a kind of beauty which always passes too quickly. These messages of personal expression speak to those who still listen. From out of a profound electronic imagination comes the subject of intimacy. This project is jubilant and exploratory, and maintains an irresistible momentum. On many moonlit journeys Sojourns will be the album you reach for first.
reviews editor –
From Synth & Sequences
More ambient than rhythmic, this album does not remain less poetic and emotional.
It’s with a slightly rising wave, in sound and emotion, that Erik Wøllo brings Memory Waves to our ears. Moving like a ghostly shadow, the movement floats with that slight humming that surrounds it. We hear whispered hums as the E-Bow casts its prismatic incantations, awakening after those long laments that shadow of bass that adds to that sense that the Norwegian bard’s floating music is always in motion. If there is one thing that does not change in this wonderful world of electronic music (EM), it is the warm signature of Erik Wøllo. According to the famous website Discogs, Sojourns would be the 46th album, singles and EPs are not included, of the Scandinavian musician. Proposed in manufactured CD and in download, Sojourns proposes a collection of 10 tracks which always have this prismatic ascendancy with these shades of E-Bow and synthesizer of which the contrasting colors call as much the appeasement as the passion. More ambient than rhythmic, this new album offered by Projekt Records does not remain less poetic and emotional with incursions in these zones where our senses always answer to the charisma of the musical aestheticism of the Norwegian.
Distant loops welded together between a low tone and a brighter one, open the beautiful lunar downtempo that is Sojourn 1. The percussions have that woody tone with a sequenced cadence that serves as a bed for those nuanced waves curling between the opening hoops. A silvery river begins to flow behind this nice lyrical background, adding a bit of moiré luster to this rhythm that lives on this new resource up until the finale of a track that joins this long series of little musical gems, we find in Wøllo’s repertoire. A breath in a horn announces the rise of Gravity. An ambient-meditative second track with layers of spectral voices intertwined with those of a synth-guitar pairing that gives an intriguing texture to the music. There are good, sibylline pads lurking around, accentuating that prismatic, melancholy vision that feeds EW’s emotions. Deep and intense, the music of Sound and Shadows does justice to the meaning of its title with an ambient structure and its synth waves flowing like shadows. The circular radiance of a thin handful of sequences gives a semblance of animated life that is solidified by the slow ascending process of a bass line. The slow layers have an orchestral texture, titillating those chills that begin to tickle the skin on my arms. These layers coat also Shinner’s circular rhythm which is built on a mesh of a bass to ascending percussive sequences. Finely jerky, this rhythm welcomes keyboard chords and misty layers before being swallowed by them in a slow finale that exceeds 60 seconds.
Blown by a cornet of contrasting tones, Arcos Iris clings to a layer bass of bass and of absent voices to borrow that river of glittering arpeggios from the finale of Sojourns 1. The tonality of the layers reminds us of a bit of Patrick O’Hearn’s music, as the rhythm unrolls its slow ascending loops that are pecked with percussive rattling. The sound of the harmonies has this mixed texture that constantly embellishes a listening hypnotized by this tonal diversity. Firmly anchored in the hum of its bells, Peace Bells offers an ambient and meditative texture where a slow harmonic evolution is heard via guitar chords flowing like a lunar lullaby. The radiance of the bells as well as those of six-string chords, in addition to the floating laments of the E-Bow, fill a fairy-tale setting. Placed between this last track and the very ambient Still Water, Sojourn 2 bursts with its lively rhythm well installed on those sequenced bass-pulsations that act as percussions. In a very energetic mid-tempo, the rhythm is framed by fluty pads, other pads in the form of harmonious riffs and those tears from the E-Bow that put life to a veil of orchestrations on a structure that wants to be increasingly spasmodic. Sojourn 2 reaches a transition phase around the 4th minute, plunging for a short while in a sibylline atmosphere before resuming a rhythmic form more nuanced in its tonal color but just as attractive as its first minutes. A very solid track on Sojourns that ends with the purely electronic rhythm of Chrysalis. Pulsating bass hits a minimalist rhythm supported by sequences that flutter while following a circular pattern. The shine of the sequences tinkle like glass bottles with different levels of liquid, giving that distinction that makes this rhythmic ritornello more seductive. The shadows of the E-Bow are murky, further enhancing the rhythmic radiance of Chrysalis.
What else can I say, except that this Sojourns is a very good album which makes a fair share between the diversity of its rhythmic textures and its purely meditative ambiences. It remains a rather conservative album from an Erik Wøllo who is less incisive on the level of the guitars but who keeps this poetic and melancholic vision which makes the delight of his fans. Rating: 4.25 -Sylvain Lupari