remote_ thoughts | contemporary electronic

Tobias Hellkvist – Everything Is Connected – Home Normal

Posted in Reviews: Electronic by remotethoughts on November 7, 2012

Tobias Hellkvist - Everything Is Connected

The last time I reviewed a Tobias Hellkvist release I was wowed by it. Having been privileged to hear it some time before it came out I was already familiar with its intricate constructions and wonderful soundscapes.

This second album, also released on Home Normal, is the perfect follow-up in many ways. It uses similar textural motifs and styles, but plays with some wonderful new additions as well.

Beginning as it means to go on, the first few pieces are elegant beatless works that are full of feeling and a delightfully melodic lilt. Built from soundscapes and drones, there’s a sense that these pieces are composed as opposed to being allowed to drift. They build, ebb, flow and subtly change over time, yet always keep the original sound in mind.

What really sets this album apart for me – and makes it a contender for my album of the year – is the way the entire structure seems to work up to the simply incredible ‘Christmas Rat’. The gradual flow of layers is finally joined by an almost Gas-like 4/4 rhythm that pulsates underneath, never becoming overwhelming, but keeping your head nodding for the duration.

It’s such a subtle, yet significant addition and in many ways is entirely unexpected. I could listen to this piece over and over and never grow tired of the way the chord seems to slice over the top of the beat. Some gentle top end percussion creeps into the mix to give it even more of a techno feel. From there it slips quietly away into a majestic last track that, once again, builds on layers, then gently fades out.

The beauty of work like this? It’s so good you have to go back to the beginning to hear it all again. It’s really quite incredibly compulsive. You could, of course, listen to the last two tracks in isolation, but that would be doing it a disservice.

In essence this is a deliciously put together album of meditative ambient music, yet it manages to sparkle and shine in ways other works never will. It sets itself apart by being beautiful, deep, dense and constructed with skill and passion. A stunning album, and yet another compelling addition to the Home Normal catalogue.

Check it here: Home Normal

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Tobias Hellkvist – Evolutions – Home Normal

Posted in Reviews: Electronic, Reviews: Organic by remotethoughts on June 16, 2010

Tobias Hellkvist - Evolutions

Artist: Tobias Hellkvist

Title: Evolutions

Label: Home Normal

Cat No.: HOMEN015

Format: CD

I’ll start by saying that this isn’t just one of my favourite albums on Home Normal, it’s one of my favourite albums of the last year. Sometimes you just hear something that nails it for you and this is very much one of those releases.

Hellkvist’s sound is a lovely combination of the organic and the electronic which gels together to give you a dense, evocative and enchanting collection of ambient tracks. From the opening moments of the first track I could tell this was going to be something special with its chiming sounds and fluttering guitar licks. The simple way it grows and expands sets things up beautifully for rest of the album.

Each piece has a different feel although the overall theme is one of pastoral calm and an intimate sense of melody and texture. From ‘Patience’ with its long, drawn out sounds and shimmering guitar through to the more robust, but no less lovely drones of ‘Arms’ you can really feel the attention to detail and love in every second. You’ll find the drifting soundscapes to be absolutely packed full of life (literally in some cases due to the effortless use of natural field recordings) but never too busy. Everything has its right and proper place, be it a fluttering wind sound, a babbling stream or the sunny and warm chords that extend the pleasure for minutes at a time.

Later on it becomes more overtly drone-based but it never loses that sense of structure or compositional strength that makes it such a compelling album. The last two tracks in particular are just divine with ‘The Ladder’ using a 12 minute period to creep gently into your mind and start playing with your sense of time – did it last for an hour? Or was it 5 minutes? Who knows? All I care about is the journey it took me on for the duration and, my word, it was truly beautiful.

‘Sore’, the final track, delves into a kind of Celer style sound with a refined layer of texture resonating gently until around halfway through when it simply fades out. I thought things were over but then a reprises glides back in and you’re left with a splendid and perfectly realised ending to a tremendous album.

The aforementioned Celer reference certainly holds true and you can definitely hear a musical kinship with Ian Hawgood (appropriately enough) but there’s something else this really reminded me of at times – not necessarily in actual style, but in some of the sound design. An album by Another Fine Day on Beyond Records way back in the mid ‘90s. If you know it at all you may well hear what I’m hearing and if you don’t know it you should go and check it out anyway. Suffice to say it’s one of my favourite albums of all time.

It’s a blissful piece of work that I go back to time and time again and certainly an easy contender for my album of the year. Marvellous.

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