Jonathan Sharp : Niavka

Jonathan Sharp has been busy the last several years putting out next level, Gothic-tinged records as The Heartwood Institute. Hazy, dreamy, and eliciting sonic tales of witchcraft(The Witchcraft Murders) and dystopian worlds(check out the collaborative Concrete Island with HAWKSMOOR), Jonathan Sharp seems to never not be readying a new electronic delight for our ears.

NIAVKA is his latest, and this time around Sharp keeps The Heartwood Institute on the shelf and has released under his own name. NIAVKA is a soundtrack to a short story written by Sharp. Musically the album pulsates with tension and dread, built from icy synths and blips and bleeps and circuital noise. It’s an urgent album, taking us on a wild journey of discovery via 80s-inflected sci-fi scores.

NIAVKA is a soundtrack for a short story written by Sharp. It seems to be the tale of a space traveler who comes into contact with someone he feared before, only to find out his fear may have been unfounded. The music captures that beautifully, making sonic and emotional turns on a dime and painting a world through electronics for us to get lost in. Where past work has been slow-building and hazy with dread, almost psychedelic in nature at times, NIAVKA builds on big percussive blasts, icy synths, and emotive pieces that bring to mind Hans Zimmer, Brad Fiedel, and John Harrison’s Day of the Dead score. These are big cinematic pieces that work to push a story.

“Drone Down” opens the album on a big, bombastic note. A tour-de-force of urgency and sense of purpose, Sharp leads us into the world of NIAVKA with part film score and electronic music provocateur. “The Shadow Taken Form” is all wavering synth and eerie calm. The Heartwood Institute’s spirit is alive and well in this track, painting landscapes of strange worlds and whispering unknowns just under the surface. “Infection Alarm” has an almost industrial heft to it, bringing to mind videogame scores like Quake and Doom. Ominous, tribal rhythm accompanied by razor synth lines and a heavy dose of dread.

Each song evolves from mysterious to doom-laden to quiet unease; from “This Is What The Outside Looks Like” to the dark ambient haze of “This Is An Old Place” to resided album closer “Wolf Song”. The 13 tracks here are puzzle pieces which put together form this dystopian tapestry called, NIAVKA.

Once again Jonathan Sharp has given us a very distinct sonic vision. Words to page, accompanied by a masterful score to those words, NIAVKA is a journey sort of listen. If you dig big, bright electronic scores of the early 80s you’re going to want to take this trip.

Buy ‘NIAVKA’ now via Spun Out Of Control.

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