Monday, 26 August 2019

PETER BJÄRGÖ - Structures and Downfall.

Album: Structures and Downfall
Artist: Peter Bjärgö
Label: Cyclic Law
Catalogue no: 141st Cycle

     1.      Inner Cathedral
     2.      Into Eternity
     3.      Anemoia & Onism
     4.      When Thoughts Become your Enemy
     5.      Structures and Downfall
     6.      Dreaming of some Purpose
     7.      Disintegration of the Mind
     8.      Winter Song

These days I am not one for traditional song-based music (ie lyrics and definite structures), preferring instead freeform abstraction simply because it allows my mind free rein to imagine and become absorbed. That is not to say that I dislike songs – there are still some acts (Cocteau Twins and Dead Can Dance particularly come to mind in this context) that use traditional forms that I regularly listen to. And on this, Peter Bjärgö’s (Arcana) fourth solo album, I find myself being drawn into a mysterious ice- and snow-bound world, filled with tall conifers and rushing crystal-clear streams, all under a sky of the purest blue.

It’s a mesmerising mix of dark ambient soundscapes, ringing bell-like guitar with notes as sharp as icicles, tribal/martial percussion, and voice. In my mind’s eye I see myself as a raptor gliding through steep-sided valleys, the snow barely clinging on to rocky escarpments and outcrops. Further down I see ranks of trees marching down to the bank of a river, the water’s surface occasionally disturbed by small ripples and whitewater foam. It’s an ancient landscape, one that has very rarely seen the footprints of mankind: human habitation, if any, is scarce and camouflaged to be as unobtrusive as possible. Here you’re more likely to see brown bears and elk, Arctic foxes and sea eagles, than you are of anything resembling a man.

There’s no doubt in my mind that this is a deeply serene series of pictures, painted in sound, of an untouched wilderness. Let me give you some examples. ‘Inner Cathedral’ speaks volumes about the wide-open spaces, the huge stretches of sky between horizons. To be a bird or animal here is unfettered freedom. ‘Structures and Downfall’ is a standout track for me, evoking as it does the majesty of the peaks, valleys, and forests where, under that sky, everything stands out with a startling clarity. If the title track represents the daylight spectacle, then ‘Dreaming of Some Purpose’ transforms the landscape into the night-time world, a starlit dome of tiny pinpricks of light suffusing the panorama, the blanket of snow gently glowing in the celestial illumination. The moon hangs placidly overlooking the nocturnal world, its face only obscured by the odd wisp of cloud dawdling its way across the sky on a night-time jaunt. Rarely, that same snow is adorned with the shifting colours of the aurora, a lightshow of melting colours and indefinable shapes and movements.

As beautiful as this vista and environment are, it also has its melancholic moments, as evinced by ‘Disintegration of the Mind’, a song of the unearthly isolation often met with in such places. It takes a peculiar cast of mind and temperament to want to live out here, let alone survive it, even in the summer months. Without the company of fellow humans, the mind almost closes down, reverting to a state of primitive instincts in order to survive.

I declare myself somewhat surprised and delighted by this album: against my expectations this album propelled me on an Arctic flight, letting me see the pristine landscapes and feel the biting cold. In particular, the use of such precise and bright guitar tones lifted this one out of the gravity of the land and launched me into the firmament. Midway between Heaven and Earth, this is the perfect viewpoint to appreciate the wondrous beauty both above and below. I shall be visiting this one again, perhaps on a clear winter’s evening, the lights off, and the only illumination a single candle. Absolutely magical.

This will be available from September 20th as a digital download, a CD in a 6-panel digipak in an edition of 500, a limited black vinyl 12” in an edition of 200, and also as a clear vinyl 12” in an edition of 100. Pre-order from either Cyclic Law:

Or from the Cyclic Law Bandcamp page:

Psymon Marshall 2019. 

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