Following his acclaimed 2020 collaboration with American synthesist Michael Stearns (CONVERGENCE, PRO371) renowned Norwegian ambient / electronic artist Erik Wøllo returns with 2021’s RECURRENCE. An intensely detailed fusion of elegant compositions and deep atmospherics, it’s a gleaming sonic journey — a timeless dreamlike pilgrimage revisiting the sound and feel of past moments with an essence of eternal renewal.
- The Presence of Future
- Clouds Forever
- Way of no return [9:15]
- Dream River 1
- Cloud Circles
- Chime Rain
Delicately evocative synthesizer atmospheres are skillfully balanced with pulsating rhythmic passages. Wøllo’s trademark processed electric guitars, synthesizers, occasional acoustic guitars and percussion create a cohesive structure that bonds the pieces into a warm, breathing continuum. Conceived to unfold as one unit, the tracks are movements drawing the listener into a deep, adventurous flow.
“I chose the title RECURRENCE,” Erik reflects, “because much of the music is built upon the idea of presenting a theme or a melodic element at the beginning of each song. This element is repeated later but within a new musical environment that evolved during the progress of the composition. It is a simple idea I’ve used on previous albums, though it’s more defined this time around. Compare it to a place you revisit and a new occurrence of something that happened or appeared before are revealed. On the revisit you explore new angles, seeing and feeling new aspects of the same experience.”
The album’s most active pieces are built upon arcs of rhythm and layers of sequencer patterns — with Wøllo’s lead lines setting the pace. “The Way of no Return” and “Umbra” both have dramatic percussive punctuations with pulsating arpeggios and deep analog bass. The ethereal tracks “Oblivion” and “Dream River” soar and dive in open, airy sections that stretch through time. These quiet, introspective and slowly unfolding pieces have a musical vastness of space — highly lush and expansive washes, powerfully evocative and soothing translucence.
“Stargazers” features acoustic guitars which evoke a warm aerial nostalgia: an organic sonic texture contrasted with long and elegant synthesizer lines. Digital-only bonus tracks “Cloud Circles,” “Chime Rain” and “Afterprints” close this journey with beautifully hazy synth swells added with distant soaring guitar voices. Peaceful and tranquil, this trilogy of tracks completes this enterprising and panoramic travelogue. An utterly suspended, lyrical and sublime outro.
RECURRENCE highlights Wøllo’s extraordinary luminous mastery. With elements reminiscent of previous releases like GATEWAY and DIFFERENT PLACES, it also sees impulses from Wøllo’s renowned collaborations with electronic music pioneers Steve Roach and Michael Stearns. Emotional and filled with sonic imagery, RECURRENCE will entice the listener to repeated listens.
Erik Wollo's last solo album dates back to Infinite Moments, a very dark ambient album released at the end of 2018. Since then, there has been one of the best albums of 2020, the excellent Convergence with Michael Stearns. Convergence, RECURRENCE… Is there a link to be made between these two names with consonances very close to each other? A little at the level of the architecture of the rhythms and especially at the emotional level. Erik's universe has this cold look, this Scandinavian hue that contrasts so much with his guitar tears spread out in an icy blue layer. There's some here, like there's that analog bassline that turns our emotions upside down. There is also The Presence of Future which seems to spring from a rib of The Nomad's Journey. But finally, and the most important, is that this RECURRENCE is without doubt the most beautiful album of Erik for a very long time.
Guitar tears morphing into shrill ambient blades are the long introductory guides of the title-track to Erik Wollo's recent album. Their oblong winged movements weave an ambient sound mass which quietly lets filter a translucent candor, guiding Recurrence towards its first rhythmic pulsations around the 5th minute. Suddenly biting our ears like harpooning this rhythmic indecision, a catchy bass line galloped with a sustained rhythm which eyes for an electronic rock too lively to simply be a good Berlin School. The Wollo universe being such as such, lines of prismatic chants and series of arpeggios ringing in loops are the only accomplices of this living rhythm which guides this title-track towards the lair of its genesis. This was good evolving e-rock! The opening of The Presence of Future breathes by these spectral waves which sing with the multiple faces of the shadows. The tandem is as attractive as an invitation with Evil. A tribal rhythm doesn't wait for 120 seconds before beating far in the shadows of the scenery ... approaching more a n d more with the insistence of its accomplices and in front of that of the sibylline duo. Like a puny structure under the weight of this omnipresent chant, the rhythm has its hardware which quivers in its upward movement constantly supported by tom-toms forged in the elasticity of a pulsing bassline. The chant also has its tremolos which get amplified when Wollo wants to give it an emotional constancy which is measured by that of a rhythm whose strengths are reduced some 6 minutes later. RECURRENCE starts off like a lion and Oblivion brings us back to the ambient phases of the Norwegian musician with ambient elements that become haunting and that float in loops to decorate its procession made up of plaintive layers of a guitar and synth duet. Shamanic tinkles escort Oblivion's advance, reaching a good level of intensity as the title finds its way out.
When we talk about changes in Erik Wollo's composition structures, Clouds Forever is a good example. In an 8-minute journey, the S candinavian bard spreads his strident wave which flickers with its chant in the oblivion and making a shadow emerge to give it a thin trickle of warmth. Electric six-string's chords stroll with an acoustic guitar, again playing on the reflections of a probable echo woven into repetitive note sequences. A bassline tempers a rhythm that percussion will solidify, while the piercing vocals of the synth/guitar pairing remains present up until a piano drops its notes that will remain in suspension. And still, Clouds Forever is in evolutionary mode and there is quite a bit of work that goes with it when it stumbles into a romantic ballad mode under a moon of semi-fright lavished by those ululating chants. From meditative guitar's tears to a stream of shimmering sequences, Way of no Return clings to the gallop of an analog bassline and ride a rhythm over dramatic bursts. The rhythmic road collapses around the 6th minute when it encounters a pool of shimmering arpeggios, bringing the last 3 minutes of the title into an anesthetizing finale. Then follows the fascinating Umbra and its organic language braided by a didgeridoo effect which clings to the lascivious phantom rhythm extracted from the skeleton of Way of no Return. There is an emotional constancy of tied to this rhythm increasing at the same level as its intensity. The passages of a meditative piano insert little by little the fragments of a melody constructed to end in our imagination. These two excellent tracks in RECURRENCE cast a little shadow to the nerve-racking Dream River 1. A very beautiful Elven voice sings a hymn to nature under a sky reverberating with buzzes which constantly rise in this sibylline setting. Our ears follow a long river of arpeggios and of shimmering sequences which gradually lose their sparkle when a dark opacity envelops the stationary movement of this rather lyrical track. Stargazers takes us back a little into the universe of Oblivion with these strident vocals and a series of f l oating pads which cover a delicious ambient ballad fed by a royal acoustic six-string. A very nice album that comes with 3 bonus tracks if you buy it on the Bandcamp site of Projekt Records. None of these titles soak in the mood of this album, as I am convinced that its purchase on manufactured CD also entitles you to these titles.
So, a very well balanced album between its evolving rhythms, its ballads under a prismatic Moon and its ambient moments woven into his sibylline Scandinavian vision, RECURRENCE presents us an Erik Wollo enriched by his collaboration with Michael Stearns in Convergence. And as I wrote earlier in the review, this is his best album in ages. Even some say it's his best ever. I think some's are getting carried away… but it's possible!
2020. Sylvain Lupari / Canada