Originally released in 2010 on Sonic Pieces at a time when modern classical was enjoying something of a surge on independent labels, Flare was the first release by Erik K Skodvin under his own name. In keeping with the Sonic Pieces aesthetic, Flare was more of a modern classical record than his field-recording and sample heavy, electronically post-processed doom-scapes under his Svarte Greiner alias, prefiguring the similarly classical leanings of Deaf Center’s sophomore album released the following year.
Since then he’s gone on to release a number of classically-influenced singles and albums with Otto A Totland, and as one third of the trio B/B/S, but 2014 sees the release of the follow up album, Flame.
To mark this event, and continuing their new output policy of releasing vinyl editions of their latest albums, Sonic Pieces have assembled a number of packages and methods via which you can obtain these Erik K Skodvin releases. A special 2LP edition of Flare and Flame is available in their new textile and cardboard packaging with printed inner sleeves. You can also purchase Flame on CD in either the first textile edition or a second cardboard sleeve edition, Flare on CD in its second cardboard sleeve edition or a specially discounted package of both CDs in second, cardboard sleeve editions. Spoilt for choice?
Skodvin’s output at this point it time was extremely dark, visceral and cinematic, and Flare shares many of the properties of his nightmarish Svarte Greiner album Knive released by Type way back in 2006. The storytelling field recordings and electronic elements are largely absent, the entirety of Flare characterized instead by ruminative piano keys and chords appearing at sparse intervals, the silence often as important as the notes, the brittle snapping of dried twigs and branches, the wooden clunk of timber and the scratching of withered strings.
Nowhere is this more effectively combined than on “Neither Dust,” which has a particularly Twin Peaks feel to it, blending Flare‘s core elements with eerily played wind instruments to create one of its richest, darkly atmospheric set pieces. Post-processing is not entirely absent from Flare however, the piano and guitar of “Vanished” clouded by reverb, delay and Alva Noto+Ryuichi Sakamoto-esque reverse effects to create a bleary, time-stretched dream sequence. Final track “Caught In Flickering Lights” is also hauntingly beautiful, featuring heart-stopping strings and suspended piano motifs circling a blinding core of arid guitar.
Ingrid Macody Lund Fraser provides more haunted, spectral vocals (as previously featured on Knive) that coil, wraith-like through silent, embrittled forests in “Pitch Dark.” Metallic vibrations of metal against metal permeate the guitar strumming in “Failing Eyes”, while “Graves” terrifies with echoing, rustling crashes and thuds and discordant guitar chords until they are swallowed in deep electronic drones and tormented, operatic voices.
It almost feels like a sequel to Knive in spite of being separated from his Svarte Greiner output by the use of his own name as artist for the recordings, the title referring somehow to the escape of the hunted and trapped protagonist from that album. And while the horror references are largely absent, Flare is every bit as chilling and atmospheric. Quite an achievement given the acoustic trappings of the album’s recording.
Flame is Skodvin’s second album to appear under his own name and has been packaged, named and composed as a sequel to Flare. But does that suggestive name reflect a change in the material? Perhaps. But while opening track “Shining, Burning” does indeed inhabit warmer climes, the piano motifs more reminiscent of Harold Budd’s humid, floral works, things go dark again very quickly on “Moving Mistake,” and remain bathed in the threatening glow of a spreading wildfire for the duration.
The one-minute “Flames” shoots spine-tingling, warbling guitar stabs from the speakers before “Red Box Curves” kicks in, a distorted reflection of “Graves” with more mechanical clanking and thumping as the squeal on un-oiled brakes and gears mercilessly pierces the ear-drums and a zithering string zig-zags through the harsh misè-en-scene. “Corrin Den” is an unusual, percussive throng of can clatter and clang, cymbal crash and chime, Gareth Davis’ nervous and skittish clarinet and the occasional red-hot chrysanthemum burst of synth bass, all reverberating in a burnt out back street. The scrape of shovels and swish of tossed dirt cast a sinister shadow over the clonking beat and gauzy clarinet of “Black & Bronze”.
I think it’s fair to say that Flame lacks some of the character that made its predecessor so distinctive, opting for a more free-form, improvised-sounding approach to modern classical that is simply not as memorable as Flare. It does make up for this in numerous places with flashes of brilliance like the strongly Deaf Center influenced “Cypress Reverb,” an extended, swirling drone piece with plaintive strings, woodwind subterranean bass and rasping guitar feedback.
Flame is another interesting release in Skodvin’s catalog of dark and haunting releases, that, like its predecessor Flare, fits perfectly into the Sonic Pieces roster.