This is not spring music, but you probably already knew that. Svarte Greiner does not make music for flowers and bunnies, unless perhaps we are including the flowers of Little Shop of Horrors and the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog. In each of his guises, Skodvin gravitates to the dark, haunted, and melancholic. And yet, a mournful elegance – extended cello draws, drenched soundscapes, measured cadences – sets his music apart from typical autumn fare. When listening, one senses that something has been lost, will never be regained, and is continuing to wreak emotional and spiritual havoc.
Black Tie consists of two side-long pieces, the title track and “White Noise”. “Black Tie” was initially composed as an installation score. Slow-building and moody, it inspires a sense of mingled curiosity and dread. For much of the first half, a single bass note tolls repeatedly like a slow, sad clock. If one concentrates on the bass, one may miss the full extent of the strings, which accumulate like fears in the corners of the speakers. As the bass recedes, these strings move forward as if suddenly freed, only to be chased away by distorted guitar chords: a large menace swallowing a smaller one. When the bass returns at the end, a sad sense of inevitability is restored.
“White Noise” is advertised as “a crucial new chapter in the Svarte Greiner evolution”, and while it still sounds like Svarte Greiner, one can hear what the press release is talking about. In the past, the artist’s work has been categorized as dark ambient with clear hints of modern composition; “White Noise” is more of a drone/modern composition hybrid. Lighter than what we’ve come to expect from the composer, the piece starts with a soft bass motif that repeats for seven minutes, then disappears as the bass did in the opening track. Strings again appear, but seem, if not hopeful, then at least like the beginnings of hope. Synth sounds replace the odd skitterings. The bass returns from the outer room. When only seven minutes remain, the expected noise of the title enters, but in a restrained fashion. While the artist seems to be aiming higher with this piece, a swifter development would have been welcome, as the closing seventh is its selling point. Skodvin’s strength is in the sonic extremes; we like the new sounds, but hope he won’t give up the old. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 30 April