Erik K Skodvin: Flare
Sonic Pieces

That Flare is Erik K Skodvin's debut album under his own name might be the most surprising thing about the release, given the number of projects with which the Miasmah label head been associated until now; certainly the material he's produced as Svarte Greiner and as a Deaf Center member constitute a body of work that has exerted a major influence on the nature of contemporary electronic ambient music. Such a statement shouldn't be interpreted to mean that Flare's actual contents are lacking in surprise, however. For one thing the album's ten settings are surprisingly short, with none pushing past the six-minute mark and most in the two- to three-minute range. One also notices how much Skodvin emphasizes arrangements built up from untreated acoustic instruments such as piano, guitar, strings, and percussion, all of which are made to swim alongside one another within deep, murky pools of hiss and reverb.

Skodvin's solo material is as disturbing as the music he's created under the Svarte Greiner and Deaf Center aliases, and more than a little bit capable of inducing unease if not nightmares in those unprepared for the music's pitch-black gloom. Titles such as “Graves” and “Vanished” establish the album's funereal character all by their lonesome. “Etching an Entrance” introduces the album understatedly with a foreboding meditation wherein exotic plucks reminiscent of hammered dulcimer are sprinkled with piano accents and bowed strings. The album's haunted character deepens when “Matiné” rises from its ashes with reverberant piano clusters that are gradually joined by plucked percussive patterns and the warbling cry of a vibrato-heavy violin. Mournful wordless vocals seep in amidst piano plucks and loud percussive strikes during “Pitch Dark,” while a rickety rhythm pattern lends “Neither Dust” an Old West ambiance, even if the lead voices themselves suggest eviscerated spectres condemned to forever roam the desolate landscape. With a title like “Graves,” one wonders whether the incessant clattering noises are those of a doomed soul struggling to escape from a burial site or someone above ground pounding the coffin lid down as dirt is thrown over top of it; regardless, the anguished moan hovering overhead provides an appropriate soundtrack to the struggle unfolding below. During “Vanished,” piano fragments drift atop a murmuring drone in a way that suggests a boat drifting down the river Styx as circles Hades. In terms of mood, Flare doesn't carve out new ground for Skodvin, though the tools themselves he uses to create the material appear to be a slightly different set than what he's used before. As one might expect, there's a wealth of sound in play in any given piece and, consequently, Flare's chilling mood settings are best experienced via headphones.

November 2010