Sverre Knut Johansen: Antarctica
Origin Music

Presented with Sverre Knut Johansen's Antarctica, one might understandably expect the Norwegian electronic producer's follow-up to 2016's Spotted Peccary release Earth From Above to be ambient soundscaping of a decidedly glacial kind and thus a natural fit for the Glacial Movements label. How surprising, then, it is to discover that while the new collection is both instrumental and rich in synthetic sounds, it has as much in common with electronic pop as soundscaping per se. Not that there's anything objectionable about that: Antarctica, inspired by its landscapes and conceived as a tribute to its animals and sea creatures, provides the listener with an ample amount of listening pleasure and is a fine addition to its creator's CV.

Anything but chilly, “Antarctica Theme” inaugurates the nine-track album with gently soaring melodies and all manner of widescreen electronic atmosphere. Elevated by an uplifting central theme, the piece hints that Johansen's explorations of Earth's southernmost continent will be filled with optimism and uplift. His arrangements are rich in detail, with synthesizer melodies augmented by layers of ambient washes and electronic beats, all such detail generating a panoramic effect that mirrors the grandeur of the continent's landscapes. It's easy to visualize the vastness of the territory, its snow-covered mountains and deep blue skies, as one absorbs the forty-two-minute production.

There are moments on Antarctica, which Johansen created in Norway during the fall of 2016, when the material moves from electronic pop into New Age and even prog zones, and the music's sleek sheen and production polish suggests it could easily function as a soundtrack to a nature documentary or promotional video about Antarctica. An old-school feel to the music surfaces on occasion, too, particularly in those moments when the producer opts for classic analog synthesizers over their digital counterpart. That's nowhere more audible than during the graceful and unexpectedly gentle evocation “Whales in Paradise,” though it's hardly the only time that analog dimension arises. There's also a suite-like quality to the release that gives it the character of a nine-part symphony, an impression strengthened when a particular theme is used as a motif that surfaces within multiple tracks and helps unify the project in the process.

January 2017