Erik Wøllo’s Threshold Point is Echoes May CD of the Month
by John Diliberto 4/30/2018
Norwegian guitarist Erik Wøllo has had four previous CD of the Month picks. It feels like more because we’ve actually passed over many of his albums because they came out two close in time to his previous picks. He could’ve had two CD of the Month picks in 2017 alone with Different Spaces and Cinematic. But we’re not letting his latest album go by. It’s called Threshold Point and it’s another step on the evolution of this musician who has been recording since the mid-1980s.
Erik Wøllo has been a favorite on Echoes from the beginning. His first album came out in 1983 and he released music at a prodigious clip into the 90s and 2000s with 28 solo albums and EPs and a dozen-or-so collaborations. In the process he’s perfected a unique brand of electronic music using a guitar synthesizer and inspired by the myths, landscapes and climate of Norway where he’s from.
While most of his music has been composed in Norway, much of his new album came into being in a small New York City bedroom while he cared for his sister who was in the final days of her life. You can hear Threshold Point as both an intimate rumination on mourning and crossing the threshold into another life, especially on the somber opening track, “Behind the Clouds.” But it’s also an album that takes you into another space, away from tragedy.
Threshold Point pushes Wøllo’s sound in new directions including a couple of percussive tracks that aren’t the norm for him. The “Mosaic of Time” quartet draws upon his work in African music with Senegalese singer Kuoame Sereba as well as the techno tribal sound of Jon Hassell. “Mosaic of Time 1-Route Diverge” builds on a cyclical percussion loop with a Jon Hassell trumpet-like tone blown across winds out of the Serengeti. “MOT2- Threshold Point” loops an even heavier, more African based percussion loop pushing under a siren swirl of synthesizers and a spare piano melody.
Much of the album has an expansive serenity, especially when he taps landscapes for inspiration. As if Norway didn’t get the chilled vibe going enough, “Ravel Peak” is an ascent up that mountain located in Antarctica. Named for the French composer Maurice Ravel, Wøllo creates a quietly searing track with an elongated trumpet-like synth melody moving across ice-sheathed synth drones in a rhythm-free ambience.
Erik Wøllo has long been a master of melodic ambient music. It’s the cinematic soundscape of travels. “Traverse” is the kind of music you put on during cross country drives, long train rides and mountain ascents to soundtrack your experience with an insistent sequencer groove leading into a searing electric guitar solo of siren sustains. It’s also the sound of interior travels on “Eons”, mapping the mind and emotions in a meditative, deep state-of-mind descent. Threshold Point is specifically concerned with the concept of passing through into another plane of existence or experience, but Erik Wøllo’s music always takes you to another place.
Read reviews of Erik Wøllo’s previous CD of the Month Picks