Erik Wøllo delivers melodic electronic music with clear beats and strong permeating tunes. Elevations is primarily a synthetic album that has an ambient foundation, but one with an organic heart – graceful chiming themes ring out against ambient textures and delicate chord structures; keening strains breeze across beautifully harmonious drones and layered washes, acoustic guitar elegantly hangs against crackling environmental ambience. Wollo’s leading melodies are full of feeling and powerfully evocative, stirring up visions of lonely landscapes even more vivid than those of the cover art. Programmed beats drive much of the music, working in tandem with sequenced patterns – restful and set deep into the sound, often steeped in reverb or muted and distant. Elevations unsurprisingly has a panoramic spaciousness about much of it – a sense of crisp, fresh air, the possibility of frost broken by warm waves of tones that gently suffuse everything like the sun breaking through cloud.
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ECHOES Radio CD of the month
A new album has been a long time coming from Norwegian musician Erik Wollo. His last work, Blue Sky, Red Guitars, dating back to 2004 is the only one I was familiar with until now. In comparison to its predecessor Elevations has been created by both synthesisers and guitars, the textures are more synthetic yet also incredibly evocative at the same time. The album and track titles suggest that Erik has a great appreciation for the natural world and this comes out in the emotional resonance felt throughout.
The slowly developing track ‘Elevation’ provides a peaceful introduction to the album. It begins with synthetic noises that drop into the soundscape and then echo off as though we're inside a partial cavern. Strange quivering noises like distorted bird sound flit about the backdrop while a rocking effect comes in with walking guitar notes and brief passages of eerie high pitched effects.
I can only describe the track ‘The Wanderer’ as superb. Cold gossamer washes and subtly resonant drones start the piece off before layered percussion and soul tugging melodies come in to fill out the soundscape. Part way through a melody like stretched silvery curtains reaches a poignant crescendo. For me this track created a vision of an epic and lonely journey by a person inspired by stark yet beautiful scenery.
Acting as a kind of interlude is ‘Sphere – Into the Dream’ where gaseous washes rise and fall as imagined waves, while a slow tempo rhythm of shiny notes and synth refrains convey a feeling of understated wonder or majesty.
The lasting impression that Elevations made on me is of unexpected serenity. Despite the lively spirit of some tracks, overall it seems infused with a sense of peace and communion with the physical world. Indeed, it only took a few minutes of the first track to get me entranced by the atmospheric beauty of the music. Gorgeous sonic textures, graceful rhythms and melodies, plus top notch production make this essential listening for ambient and EM fans alike.- Dene Bebbington, Melliflua
It's hard to resist picking an Erik Wollo album as a CD of the Month. We've done it once or twice when CDs have been released in close proximity, but every album could be a CD of the month no-brainer. We picked Wind Journey in 2001 and Blue Sky, Red Guitars in 2004. His music captures everything I think of as quintessentially Echoes: evocative, enveloping ambiences, soaring, heart-baring melodies, and kinetic, propulsive grooves, all orchestrated in electro-organic sound. Just about all of his CDs are perfect and Elevations is no exception. Wollo has always been a master of mixing deep churning textures with synthesized and acoustic elements. It's like folk music for the electronic village. Tracks like ‘The Wanderer’ are cinematic adventures, surging forward on insistent, tribal rhythms that have a loping, behind the beat feel, chords that play out like slow sunrises and a lead guitar line that sings in harmonic sustains. Songs like ‘Evolution’ are like electro-symphonies, morphing through minimalist moods, guitar exposition and crescendos into the heavens.
It's easy to characterize Wollo's music as coming from the frozen north of Norway with its blasted landscapes and long winter nights. But indeed, Elevations overflows with chilly scenes of winter and implications of Norse mythology and heroic vistas. It's music that has epic dimensions, but with a minimalist's restrained elegance. Elevations lives up to its title, which is why we picked it as our February 2007 CD of the Month.- John Diliberto, Echoes CD of the Month
It’s hard enough to avoid clichés about ice and frozen landscapes when writing about electronic music produced by Scandinavian artists. But when you feature snow-covered terrain on your CD cover and tracks are tied together by the sound of icy arctic winds, you’re asking for it. Fortunately, Wøllo keeps things interesting enough that clichés never seep into the music itself. On Elevations, he returns to the electronic soundscapes for which he is best known. In many ways, this record is something of a modern musical anachronism. It is purely and unabashedly melodic and programmatic, and breaks no new artistic ground whatsoever, which is fine—many artists have produced their best work when they weren’t trying to rewrite the book but stuck to what they did best. In Wøllo's case, that would be producing memorable electronic music that’s long on atmosphere, mood and melody and short on harsh sounds and musical experimentation. Which is precisely what we have here. Musically, the individual pieces on Elevations flow together to create an atmospheric whole evocative of passage through near-arctic mountain ranges; think Vangelis’ Antarctica filtered through Richard Burmer’s Bhakti Point and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what you’ll hear. Those familiar with Wøllo’s earlier electronic and ambient works will recognize plenty of strokes from a sonic palette that is exclusively his. Unlike many albums where artists cram their best ideas into the first part of a recording and then cruise on autopilot to the end, Elevations, as good as it is from the beginning, actually gets more interesting as it proceeds. ‘Skyscape,’ ‘Green Odyssey,’ ‘Arrow of Time’ and ‘The Land of Birds’ are the last four of the CD’s fourteen tracks, and they encapsulate everything that is good about the earlier pieces while turning it up a notch in terms of inventiveness. Elevations stands with Wøllo’s best, and fans of Vangelis and Burmer (and either of their works mentioned above) would be well advised to add it to their collection- Darren Bergstein, e/i Magazine, installment 9
Melodic electronic music with clear beats and strong permeating tunes. Elevations is primarily a synthetic album that has an ambient foundation, but one with an organic heart - graceful chiming themes ring out against ambient textures and delicate chord structures; keening strains breeze across beautifully harmonious drones and layered washes, acoustic guitar elegantly hangs against crackling environmental ambience. The leading melodies are full of feeling and powerfully evocative, stirring up visions of lonely landscapes even more vivid than those of the cover art. Programmed beats drive much of the music, working in tandem with sequenced patterns - restful and set deep into the sound, often steeped in reverb or muted and distant. Elevations unsurprisingly has a panoramic spaciousness about much of it - a sense of crisp, fresh air, the possibility of frost broken by warm waves of tones that gently suffuse everything like the sun breaking through cloud.
Elevations comes with a montaged image at the front - deeply contoured snowy peaks obliquely lit cast heavy shadows, graphic edges and radial lines overlaid in contrasting colour and form. Another terrain graphic fills the back panel where a tracklisting appears with timings for each piece. Here also are website details and publishing information. Inside is a two panel fold-out insert with a saturated blue photograph that maintains the contour theme. Within we find credits and instrument details as well as the address of Erik Wøllo's own website - www.wollo.com
Elevations is the latest in a lengthy discography running back into the mid 1980s. Nowegian born Wøllo is from Hemsedal and has worked in ‘a wide range of styles from rock and jazz, to experimental electronic and classical music’. His work includes composing and performing for film, theatre, ballet and various exhibitions, guitar based, electronic and orchestral. This CD is released on Spotted Peccary Records and sees the artist employing guitar synthesizers, acoustic guitars, keyboards, Wollo VST Software and various programming techniques. The result is one that straddles the ambient and electronica genres - drifting and meandering, yet built up into dreamy themes and shifting rhythms. There is plenty of detail, much to hold the attention, yet sparingly arranged, uncluttered and gentle. Twelve tracks in all mostly around the six minute mark or less - the final piece Land Of Birds drifting off into silence before fading up once more into a hidden encore of beatless tone.
Erik Wollo climbs the mountains of ambient sound in this superb CD. He performs all the instrumentation: Guitar synthesizers, acoustic guitars, keyboards, Wollo VST Software, percussion and programming. The man is a good musician and excellent composer of music for the mind.
The disc runs from the dreamy heights of ‘Elevation’ to gentleness of ‘The Land of the Birds.’
There is a timeless quality to the album that comes from the solid production quality captured and the composition of the music. There is no hustle and bustle that you get from most of our daily lives. But rather a slow, more introspective stance that would be good for anyone looking to improve their lives.
Erik Wollo has made two strong ambient statements with this album and his previous disc Blue Skies, Red Guitars. He's one of the talent artists on Spotted Peccary Records.- Terry Wickham, Mantaray Pictures
Erik Wollo creates evocative electronic scores for the cinema of sleep. The imaginative soundtracks on his CD Elevations (65'09’) conjure up vast panoramas and limitless horizons. The music is spacious and uncluttered, and has a fresh and natural quality to it. Elegant melodies wander through soundscapes of gentle beats and take the listener from states of dreamlike stillness, to frozen brilliance, to warm enchantment. Strikingly similar to his exalted early works Traces and Images of Light, Elevations opens up spaces and serenely fills them with music. Wollo's signature use of shining, consonant chord structures, tender melodic phrasing, and masterful sound design are what give Elevations its adventurous and vibrant character. These 12 deceptively simple compositions are a reading of the spirit as Wollo infuses this work with his own being. Through his guitar and synthesizers, the summoned music arises, and Wollo's vaporous ideas chill into form.- Chuck van Zyl, Star's End
Norwegian guitarist and synthesist Erik Wøllo is back with a fine collection of carefully crafted compositions. Whereas Red Guitars, Blue Guitars was built around that instrument, Elevations goes back to Wøllo’s trademark sound of creatively seamlessly blending guitars, synthesizers and programming.
These are light, lilting melodies that you can hum long afterward. Lush atmospheric textures abound, wrapping each song in a gentle cocoon of sound. As on the last album, colors remain a major theme. ‘Red Odyssey’ is imbued with warmth and light, as percussion takes a wavering guitar lead on a meandering carefree journey. ‘Blue Odyssey’ is colder, sharper, the percussion punching its way through, though the melody remains bright. ‘Green Odyssey’ is softer and moves along at a carefree pace. In between are a number of highly accessible tunes for easy listening, some rhythmic some not, some lighter some a shade darker, although lighter is the order of the day for the most part.
This CD from 2007 offers 65 minutes of airborne electronic music.
Atmospheric textures swirl and expand to generate a lavish firmament of immense luster and mesmerizing appeal. Pulsating tones waft into view, shimmering as they capture descending illumination. Delicate keyboards provide airy riffs that superbly embellish these lofty sonic sentiments. The chords slide into perfect harmony with the glistening tonal clouds, achieving a striking contrast of clarity in tandem with the vaporous mood. Environmental sounds (birds, wind) are synthetically created to inject a humble earthiness to the soaring tuneage.
A certain chill accompanies these tunes, stimulating the ears into a discerning sensitivity. Each note becomes an enthralling delight, while the combinations of these notes achieve a heavenly tingle.
Percussion is utilized judiciously, serving to enhance rather than enliven the music. These languid tempos lurk deep in the mix, seasoning the flow with their chugging beats. Often, non-impact sounds are harnessed to supply gentle rhythms that shudder softly, a sort of subliminal locomotion.
Crafted with meticulous attention to evoking a dreaminess, these compositions do more than sedate the audience. The vibrant depth of the music instills an expansive receptivity, attuning the listener to uplifting moods hidden in the flowing harmonics. The melodies snare the subconscious and guide synapses into enriching cohesion that leaves behind a distinct positivism.- Matt Howarth, Sonic Curiosity