The real joy in the fourth demo of German ambient project Til Det Bergens Skyggene is just how it manages to capture and contrast its rustic, naturalist squalor through the use of what many consider to be the most synthetic of mediums: the synthesizer itself. At heart a conceptual piece, Vandringen I: Skoglandskap del I-IV ('Forest landscape part I-IV) is a beautiful sojourn from the confinements of civilization to both the ceiling and floor of the untouched wilderness, and my favorite thus far from this particular composer.
Where in the past Lord Vranevorn has used strings to complement the keys, he sticks here to a coherent kennel of sounds to provide both elegance and an oft central, throbbing rhythm. As a flawed human being given to my inbred stereotypes and predefined dispositions, I won't lie that the pads implemented often gave me the impression of drifting solitaire through time and space, engaged in the bright chemical and physical reactions surrounding me. Call it the consummate, hopeful futurist within me, or the Tangerine Dream addict, but it did take me several plays to approximate the melodies and scintillating, sorrowful backdrop to the rural landscape of the creator's vision.
But eventually, I did just that, and an entire new realm of possibility was opened to me. For example, in the opening track "I", I soon equated the pulse and flow of the central synthesized woodwind-like sound to a scurrilous creature seeking its sustenance in some low undergrowth. The resonant, brooding backing tone in "II" reminded me of a river's course through the wilds, the shorter, plucking keys like the ripples upon its surface, and the lead sequence a wheeling bird seeking out insects who skitter across its current. The delightful, alternating melodies of "III" are perhaps the most alluring and beautiful of the album, leaves gently swaying through the air as the light filters the forest canopy. "IV", which is the darkest in mood of the quartet, is almost an onrush of shadow and night, but nonetheless wondrous, full of enigmatic glitterings.
What's more, the pieces flow with precisely the appropriate duration, from 4-8 minutes, never once exceeding their welcome to swell into obsessive white whales of monotony. Unlike many ambient composers who seem to hit 'record' at random, dump a load of improvisation onto a sound file and then expect you to chew it up, Vranevorn clearly has the course of his music plotted out, with lush gradations that offer new, and not entirely predictable shivers and epiphany. In the past, I've drawn comparisons to Burzum's ambient works, Vinterriket or other metal related artists who have explored the minimalist/soundscape sector (in addition to the obvious pioneers from the 70s and 80s), but here I feel like Til Det Bergens Skyggene is really starting to come into its own: catchier, structured and fully capable of the transportation and transformation required for its listener's immersion.
A pity, and truly a pity, that the appeal of such a work as this is isolated to such a small niche of genre devotees and open minded seekers of obscurity. Vranevorn's demos are not in mass rotation, but I highly recommend that the interested party seek out the Voldsom site and get in touch to experience this. Don't expect a space age, over-tracked, high budget 'chill out' session of techno lite here, but the most honest interpretations of picaresque wilderness directly into emotion stirring sound. Nothing is arbitrary. Nothing lacks a sense of 'belonging'. As such, Til Det Bergens Skyggene continues to grow as an institution, and I can only imagine what will follow...
Verdict: Win [8.75/10]