First impressions are intrinsically linked to nature and grandiose ambience as the first tones of Pjusk’s new album, “Sval,” play out on my headphones. Leave the room, the natural and familiar confines of your home, town and unleash the open mind to encompass the wide expanses of Pjusk’s soundscapes. With “Sart,” Jostein Dahl Gjelsvik and Rune Andre Sagevik boldly, yet with Scandinavian modesty, entered the stage under the banner of Taylor Deupree’s 12k label, and it would be a tremendous understatement to call expectations to their follow-up anything but major. Before we proceed into the details, readers should feel reassured the wait has been well-worth it, as Pjusk have honed their compositional techniques and achieved once again to produce that “Pjusk sound” and more importantly, condense through revitalisation and innovation.
The location, serving as the backdrop to Sval, is a mountain cabin secluded deep in the Norwegian valley of Valldal, aptly also serving as the title of the opening track. The journey the listener is taken along on nothing short of a brilliant ambient experience, and as sophomore albums go, this one succeeds with flying colours. The soundscapes are majestic, like the jagged peaks of western Norway and contemplative stillness of deep fjords and isolated tundras, closely mimicked by organic-sounding, deep synths that sweep like cold winds over these rugged landscapes offset by treacherous, thudding basslines. Here are a plethora of found sounds and field recordings of such elements as crowing birds, creaking tracks under the slow advance of trains, overhead drone of the occasionally passing airplane, flurrying cricket-like chirps, icy cold streams and other stark noises of the cold north to recreate the barren feeling of the surroundings the two musicians experienced from their remote mountain cabin. As the duo have pointed out themselves, it’s difficult to get away from the close connection between the people of Norway and the surrounding nature, and as such their music shares this connection, highly evident also from the track titles that are all nature-related phenomena and generally words that sounds good when pronounced – much like the music they are a representation of. Of course, there’s no prerequisite to be Norwegian to fully appreciate and enjoy the ambient soundscapes of Pjusk, but people who in general are privileged with near-proximity to nature in their life will possibly relate more easily and thus appreciate this music in earnest.
For their second album, the duo has also brought onboard a few contributing musicians, both vocal treatments from Norwegian singer Elisabeth Lahr and also contributions by the enigmatic Strië, a promising musician the electronic music scene will become more familiar with later in the year. With “Sart” as a platform, Pjusk have now built a solid foundation for further developing their sound and “Sval” feels like the best possible follow-up and continues to illustrate the credible and aurally aesthetic microsound and minimalistic trademark of Taylor Deupree’s 12k label. This is perfect for home listening and a record that keeps you bobbing along with its sluggish rhythm, minimal soundscapes and restrains itself from taking off but nonetheless harbours a myriad of details and touches you down safely into a highly recommended listening experience.