It’s a cliché, I know, but as soon as an Erik Wøllo album starts,
you know you are on a journey. It’s like the moments before take-off, only Wøllo’s ascent doesn’t throw you back in your seat with G-Force thrust. It’s a gentle rise into euphoric space. Timelines is a beautifully sculpted example of that.
Wøllo is a Norwegian musician who has been recording since 1984, releasing 18 solo albums in that span plus collaborations with musicians like Steve Roach, Ian Boddy and Kouame Sereba. From his 1988 album Traces (recently reissued on Spotted Peccary Records along with other Wøllo titles) Wøllo showed a command of detailed orchestrations and dramatic melodies. A guitarist and keyboardist, both elements come together in intricate and unexpected ways on Timelines.
Wøllo’s recent albums, Silent Currents and Airborne, have taken him into the drone zone inhabited by Steve Roach, but Timelines is a return to form for this guitarist who is more at home in a world of melody. But you can hear those abstract influences in his electronic percussion palette which reflects the influence of his collaborations with Roach on Streams of Thought and Road Eternal.
The central core of this album is acoustic guitar, on which Wøllo composed all of the tracks, except I suspect, the spacey closer, “Ocean.” On “Blue Rondo,” an acoustic guitar arpeggio seems to reveal itself out of an electronic swirl, merging with glurpy water drip electronic percussion, soaring synth pads and growling electric guitar drones before evolving into a gently percussive piece with some searing ebow guitar leads.
“Visions” is the centerpiece of the album, a slowly building work of interlocked percussion, electronic cycles and that ebow guitar that seems to emerge like a stealth bomber out of the storm clouds. Maybe that imagery is a little foreboding, but that’s what draws me to Wøllos music. A track like “Along the Journey” could be a gentle walk through a Norwegian forest and easily devolve into New Age prettiness. But throughout the walk, Wøllo has ambient atmospheres swirling at the edges, leaving them unfocused and mysterious. There’s a darkness that balances the light, a dark undertow that serves to put his melodies in beautiful bas relief. And then of course, there’s the thudding percussion and spiraling ebow solo that reveals this is no country walk.
Erik Wøllo has had a few CD of the Month picks in the past. It’s hard not to. Time is suspended when you cross Erik Wøllo’s Timelines.
John Diliberto (((echoes)))