While he is best known as the creative force behind the popular electronica dance project Sally Shapiro, Johan Agebjörn proves on Mossebo that he is not afraid of the darker and deeper spaces.|
- Dulciter Somni
- The Sound of Snowflakes Touching the Ground
- The Sea
- Ambient Computer Dance
- Unitas Vitae
- Putting More Wood in the Fire
- Siberian Train Part I
- Siberian Train Part II
- A New Day Arrives
Indeed, Mossebo evokes human warmth in a wintry landscape, expertly juxtaposing intimacy and isolation.
Named after the house in which Johan lived while composing and recording the album, Mossebo is a collection of ambient pieces composed between 2004 and 2007; and one additional track that was created in 1996.
With the stunning wordless vocals of Lisa Barra skillfully winding their way through many of Agebjörn’s dazzling synth compositions, Mossebo is an album that is both electronic and organic at its core.
Barra’s passion for the folk music of different cultures lends a timeless quality to the album that transcends the conventional limits of most modern electronic ambient music.
Ambient groove featuring soothing female vocals. Johan Agebjörn runs through a diverse range of ambient and electro stylings on Mossebo - steady drones and environmental sounds support timeless vocal chants that echo and soar in Gregorian fashion, tranquil piano phrases lie down among soft evening synth strains, digital beats lightly flicker beneath warm synth and voice duets or join with programmed bass as on the track Ambient Computer Dance where ambience almost gives way to dreamy downtempo. Toward the latter part of the album the pair of tracks Siberian Train Parts I and II deliver a somewhat darker, colder sound - no singing here, rhythms are more shuffling, the spaces broader, the outlook more isolated - distorted speech samples thick with sonic mist announce travel details, breathy mouthings join the idle beats maintaining the peculiar juxtaposition of organic/mechanic that pervades most of Mossebo. The concluding piece has a more spacey feel than previous tracks - Lisa Barra's clear voice once more melting into a bed of melancholy sweeps and welling pads.
The artwork for Mossebo comes in a jewel case mostly adorned with colourful abstract imagery. The front cover is bisected by a ragged black strip parting indigo from orange that almost looks like a landscape turned on its side - heavy sky to the right, sunset sea to the left. On the back cover deeper, more saturated hues in abstract formation similarly suggest possible resolution. The tracklist is here each with a writing credit alongside - below more brief credits particularly drawing attention to the vocal work of Lisa Barra. Inside the album opens out to reveal first a photograph of a snow covered house (I'm guessing this is where the music was recorded in keeping with the album title). The insert further opens out to reveal a track by track discussion of the music, explaining influential ideas, recording details and various thoughts from the artist. A paragraph of thanks follows and finally Johan says 'Be kind to animals,' good advice.
Johan Agebjörn has been recording for some years now, perhaps he is most widely known for his work with Sally Shapiro the neo-italo electronica dance project; however he has also produced solo music through his personal label Husmus Media, named after the mice that formed his earliest audiences. That said Mossebo is presented as Johan's first solo album 'proper' - and brings together tracks composed mostly during the years 2004 through to 2007, with one earlier track initially written as far back as 1996 beginning life on an Atari sequencer. Based in Gothenburg Sweden, this time Johan releases his album choosing the title Mossebo after the name of the house where he lived during the creation of the music. Eleven tracks in all make up this strong disc of diverse electronic terrain united by an interest in folk tradition and ambient expression with a slightly melancholy northern chill to the air.
Who is Johan Agebjörn and where has he been all this time? Though probably a new name to most, his bio on Discogs.com (and his website) shows him treading in quite divergent streams, creating piano-based compositions in addition to Italo-disco under his Sally Shapiro alias.
All over the stylistic map it might be, but Mossebo blew me backtotally engaging, lithe in execution and elegantly produced, its luxurious ear candy handily updates the early 90s heyday of Euro ambient techno. Agebjörn’s influences run a wide gamut: he himself notes the ballast of Autechre on "Ambient Computer Dance" (the Incunabula era), and Lisa Barra’s wordless (and sometimes wordful) vocals recall that other Lisa-nicked chanteuse, Gerrard. (Elements of Erik Wøllo and Candice Pacheco pop up as well.) Barra’s baleful coos and energized whispers play all kinds of acrobatic games across Agebjörn’s rhythm tracks, trading their hypertexts with arctic synths, the odd piano, and even themselves, Agebjörn admitting a fondness for vocoders and chopped-up voice edits.
All due respect given to the Delerium boys and any Enigma worshippers/wannabes out there, but here’s sultry techno-trance done right.
The opening "Dulciter Somni" makes a good argument against such ultra-polished digital faux "world" music, Agebjörn setting up a fairly simple drum machine riff over which Barra swoops and swoons amongst pink-purplish electronic flotsam. One of Mossebo’s particularly notable graces is that its richly-detailed fabric comfits a largely uncluttered music: Agebjörn no doubt clings to the less-is-more school and milks that credo for all its worth.
Thus "The Sound of Snowflakes Touching the Ground" appears quite enamored of its pristine subzero minimalism, pitter-pattering beats skating below Barra’s cries as if on a thin icepatch, and the two-part "Siberian Train" actually feels more epic than it is, Agebjörn’s locomotive programming and delineated synths reminiscent of Tangerine Dream’s classic "Madrigal Meridian", or even a distantly-engineered cousin to their own "Love On A Real Train."
In any case, Mossebo is like some brilliant bolt out of the blue, unexpected, surprising, ever-rejuvenatingbuilt for the future, Johan?
This work disc by Johan Agebjorn is a fresh fusion of Ambient and Synth-Pop. The music is, on the whole, melodic, and with clear romantic traits. The pieces tend to be soft, with slow rhythms, or even static. A certain nostalgic air is present in most of the themes, although there are others with merry, festive passages.
The warm voice of Lisa Barra, complementing some of the tracks, contribute in a remarkable way to make of this album a joyful musical experience.
Music better transmits the complexity of human feelings and emotions than words do. Electronica artist Johan Agebjörn knows this, yet on Mossebo (59'20") incorporates plenty of vocals into his work - but almost no words.
The first instrument (the human voice) goes well with the newest instrument (the synthesizer) and on this CD combine to create a fascinating range of texture and atmosphere. Moving between that which is lovely and warm and the icy sharpness of a frostbound digital world, Agebjörn produces Ambient Music informed by Techno ambitions - with the intimacy of the former and the energy of the latter.
Strutting basslines, cascading electronic tones and the psychic noise of the world combine in 11 tracks, each more a thought cycle than a song. Patterned over both time and space Agebjörn's talents generate bewitching melodies, breathy vocalizations and drum machine beats unwinding in beautiful bright logic, as easily as synthetic tone poems which devour dark static durations.
An album where Contemporary Instrumental wanders into Space, and IDM crosses into New Age, Mossebo is the rare find that combines its disparate elements into something bigger than the sum of its parts.
2008. Chuck van Zyl / STAR'S END
Mossebo is an ambient new age album full of lush textures and colors.
"Dulciter Somni" is a mellow opener, effective at building anticipation of what may follow. Johan Agebjörn’s electronics are soft and light, and Lisa Barra’s voice on 5 of the 11 tracks adds a dreamlike ethereal quality that permeates the disc.
Bright shimmering sequencing forms the backing to "The Sound of Snowflakes Touching The Ground." In addition to Barra’s vocal, there is a male voice providing a brief narrative at a couple of points, presumably Agebjörn.
The title track is a dreamy bridge to "The Sea", which is the strongest vehicle yet for showcasing Barra.
In a change of pace, "Ambient Computer Dance" is exactly what you’d expect from the name; it is melodic, bouncy and fun.
"Shoreline" is a subdued piano piece with bells and other delicate synths. Agebjörn asks the listener to imagine this as the last track on Side A. "Unitas Vitae" is an appropriately livelier number to start Side B, although it still has the same softness that runs throughout. Next is the original mix of the "Snowflakes" track, with Barra’s vocals clipped into brief snippets. Agebjörn made the right choice in keeping her vocals intact for the lengthier version.
"Siberian Train" is divided into two parts, and chugs right along like a locomotive; a woman even gives directions to disembarking passengers. The first part is more minimal and haunting, and the second has crisp, bright percussion to lighten things up just a bit.
These are my two personal favorites on the album, although there is plenty to recommend on Mossebo.
Phil Derby / Electroambientspace