IE : Pome

Listening to IE’s new record Pome is a lot like stepping into a dream. The five-piece from Minneapolis dabble in space-y, hallucinogenic songs that are as much soundtracks to existential drifts as they are fever dream walks on the moon. There’s lots of familiar vibes, but nothing you can quite put your finger on as you slip in and out of consciousness with this album. Bits of ambient drone, noise rock, buzzing electronic, and waves of experimental music come from all angles. Everything from Terry Riley, Massive Attack, and even Popol Vuh permeate IE’s musical world, which makes Pome an immense listening experience.

20 years ago if you had said you were in a drone band you may have just gotten a weird look and shown the door. The 80s and 90s pretty much made it a violation of man’s law to stop and make time to look into yourself. The decade of shiny things led to the decade of indifference. Nobody had time to crack open their skull and try and tidy up what was inside. Thankfully there has been a resurgence and revitalization of ambient and drone bands in the last several years. Bands that take that musical realm seriously. Heady trips into the subconscious to find some meaning in it all. For me, that’s an absolute must in the situation we live in. Bands like Landing, Billow Observatory, and of course IE, are making ambient and drone cool again(or for the first time? Or just cooler.)

Apparently the beginnings of Pome can be linked to a hot tub. Drummer Meredith Gill was gifted a hot tub by her eccentric handyman. An 8-person hot tub was then installed in Gill’s garage and she would soak in the hot, healing waters after band practice. You can almost feel the hot and consuming waters envelope you as you listen to album opener “Amulet”. A droning, hypnotic track that cascades like clouds with looping synth and simple percussion. Elements of Terry Riley permeate the track as Crystal Myslajek’s vocals appear from the ether. “An Empty Vessel Makes Much Noise” has a Krautrock vibe to it. More Popol Vuh than Neu!. The rhythm, quiet and subtle, leaves space for you to get lost in.

Elsewhere, the middle point of “Moon Shot” and “Idol Horizon” seem to have more pop elements than what came before. Not so much radio fodder, but there’s more emphasis on groove and melody with noise and drone floating just below the surface. “Nebula” closes the album on a free-floating space jam. Elements of Tangerine Dream step in and out of the mix on this excellent track. The Berlin School vibe is strong here.

Pome is one hell of a debut. Minneapolis can get pretty arctic in the winter months, and IE convey a certain isolation in their sparse, galactic jams. January in Minneapolis might as well be January on the moon. We need a soundtrack for those quiet, cold, and desolate moments. Pome is that soundtrack.

Grab a copy of Pome here.

7.8 out of 10

 

Carlton Melton : Mind Minerals

Carlton Melton write and create on another level. They seem to reside not outside in the elements, but somewhere deep inside. They make a kind of subconscious psychedelia. The sound of blood rushing from your body to your brain, or the whooshing you occasionally get inside your ear as if air is escaping your skull, that’s the space Carlton Melton reside in and create within. There music is an internal hum, a fuzzy grit that emanates from deep thoughts and a sort of existential bliss that comes from musically intellectual explorations. Their earlier records were gauzy blots of psych rock, Krautrock repetition, and blissful drone, all done in a lo fi freedom.

With their last full-length, the epic Out To Sea, the Melton guys cleaned up the production but kept the heady explorations up front and center. Last year they released the 3-song Hidden Lights; a spaced-out appetizer for what was coming. The main course has arrived in the form of Mind Minerals, another double album that mixes these Pacific Northwest space explorers musical loves; all-out psych rock jams, calming ambient drones, and sheer, atmospheric beauty. This is a slab of serious musical dexterity and fodder for some zoned-out contemplation.

We mine minerals, don’t we? We dig deep to find minerals in cavernous holes in mountains and in the ground. Hell, we probably mine minerals on other planets, too. There’s probably secrets of the universe hidden away in bunkers all over the world that we’ve mined over the years on other planets we’ll never know about. I imagine Mind Minerals is like mining our brains for deeper thoughts and subconscious truths. When listening to Carlton Melton’s Mind Minerals, it feels as if they’re digging in our heads for something you’ve long since lost or forgot you ever had. Take something like “Electrified Sky”. It’s about as aggressive as the Melton guys get, but it’s a grooving, fuzz-faced rocker. It’s the diamond-tipped drill going right into your elemental core, scraping and scrapping. It’s all muscle memory and 70s guitar squall. They’re making room for sonic landscapes that can heal us, both psychically and physically. “Eternal Returns” is another bombastic rocker, complete with Bonham-esque drums and an almost grunge-y Seattle vibe in the guitar and bass. It’s sort of like Soundgarden working out some serious dirge in 1990. Caffeinated rock; dark, strong, and foreboding for the uninitiated. “Psychoticedelicosis” saunters like some prehistoric beast, rummaging for food, shelter, or just something to mess with. Guitars wail and screech as the drums and bass lay down some serious caveman foundations.

All of this guitar muscle reckoning makes way for the true psychic healing. Once the debris has been cleared, the heady ambient tones arrive to fill the voids with lush drone. This is a place Carlton Melton succeed at so well. They can lay down the jams with the best of ’em, but their “calm during the storm” moments are what blow me away. “The Lighthouse” is the first of these psychic healings. You can hear the rumblings of guitar as they attempt to rise above the gauzy synths. They never overpower, but the guitar drones let you know they’re there, just under the surface. “Snow Moon” is 10 minutes of pure droning escapism. It’s like deep space dread mixed with a meditative calm, like sitting indian-style staring over a canyon into an endless abyss. “Atmospheric River” pushes the boundaries at a whopping 13+ minutes. It’s less drone and more like an extended intro or outro. It’s like a looped beginning to something, but with something just under the surface that might be menacing. The guitar puts me in mind of Hendrix as well. Light, bluesy, and exploratory.

There are some in-between moments as well. “Basket Full Of Trumpets” is a light-hearted tune. It keeps a steady rhythm with the bass and drums, which allows the guitar to float around with a bluesy abandon. “Sea Legs” is this fluttery psychedelic track. It gets loud but never aggressive. It has this “break in the clouds” vibe, like opening your eyes after being in the dark for a long, long time.

At a 76 minute run time, Mind Minerals is an epic musical exploration. Carlton Melton stray and wander, but in the best way possible. They are seekers as much as they are rock musicians. They’re mining for the good stuff and it seems with each successive album they find more of it. Little by little, chipping at that mountain looking for spiritual gold. No need to rush it, though. There’s no hurry to get to the end when the journey is so damn interesting.

8.2 out of 10

 

Various Artists : Holodeck Vision One

If you at all dabble in modern electronic or synth-heavy music, then Holodeck Records should be a name you’re familiar with. The Austin-based record label is a musician-owned and operated vinyl & cassette(and digital) sort of affair. It’s ran by members of S U R V I V E, Troller, Thousand Foot Whale Claw & Future Museums. You could say it’s a boutique record company, but that makes it sound elitist. On the contrary, Holodeck Records is the epitome of the DIY aesthetic. It’s a label created by artists for artists. It’s a home for musicians that couldn’t find a place to express themselves freely, and now they can. Daniel Lopatin’s Software Recording Company attempted to create a similar vibe, but he got too busy melting frontal lobes to keep up with the day to day of running a label. Holodeck is just as much a musical cooperative as it is a record label. They are becoming to modern electronic and heavy synth what labels like Creation and 4AD were to early 80s alternative.

Since its inception in 2012, Holodeck Records has hosted a bevy of talented musicians and their visions. Those visions are what make up the very first Holodeck compilation collection. Holodeck Vision One brings under one roof everything that makes Holodeck Records so unique. Styles as diverse as synth pop to abstract noise and psych rock to electronic dance music, they are all represented here in a masterful 2 1/2 hour listening experience. Holodeck Vision One is a mind-expanding sampler platter for the true musical explorer.

My prediction is that in 5 years(or maybe less) there will be a vinyl pressing of Holodeck Vision One. It’ll be an extremely limited 3 or 4 LP box set with intricate liner notes written by musical scholars regarding the label’s inception and insider details about artists like Dust Witch, Dallas Acid, Future Museums, Virgin Pool(love that name), Skullcaster and Sungod. Details regarding the songs included; like recording processes, studio notes, and enough gear porn to make Tape Op magazine look like a crumpled copy of Hustler. In years to come this will become a coveted vinyl set and one extremely important to electronic music, much like the Nuggets set was to the early days of psych.

I will own this, oh yes I will.

But until that day comes, this is an easily downloadable set of up and coming and well established musicians. To hit each one song by song would be madness, so let me just say there is no lulls and no weak points here. Holodeck Vision One is a solid 2 1/2 hours of hazy, mind-expanding electronic music for the listener with exquisite tastes.

Here is, however, a few highlights:

Omni Gardens: “Ceiling of the Mind” is a delicate slice of ambient/new age that has the sound of ice crystals forming on a pre-dawn window. It brings to mind the work of JD Emmanuel and Klaus Schulze in contemplation mode.

Michael C Sharp: “Blublocker” goes all Komische with his languid slab of synth goodness. There’s also elements of the avante classical movement of the early 70s with Terry Riley peeking thru the heady synth structures.

Curved Light: “Endgame Scenario” has a majestic quality to it. Dreamy, distant-sounding organ seems to hang in the air, like some Gothic and mystical cloud. The song shifts from a baroque chamber piece to something more spectral; futuristic even. It’s quite stunning.

Michael Stein: “No Standard” has a neo-futurist pop sound. It’s like Kraftwerk got heavy into bass and 808s. The ghostly, robotic vocals add a real air of eeriness.

Dust Witch: “Sister Planet” is the type of song that should pop up in Denis Villeneuve’s upcoming Dune films. These guys capture a certain kind of musical majesty that you don’t hear a whole lot these days. They’re definitely progressive rock with elements of cinematic sweeps and spins. This song in particular captures the best of Goblin’s film work, while also pulling in classic Genesis and even some Popol Vuh. If you haven’t heard of Dust Witch yet, welcome. They’re about to blow minds globally.

Future Museums: “Calcite” is a beautifully low key track, throwing in elements of Krautrock, synth pop, and ambient.

Norm Chambers: “Crossing Over” is just an eloquent piece of heavy synth. Atmospheric, melancholy, and envelopes you in its beautiful circuitry.

Windows1995: “Chills Hill” puts me in mind of Tangerine Dream, but if Froese were into post-rock. Has a very meditative feel to it as well. Gonna lay out a blanket underneath the darkening big sky and open my brain a bit to this.

Troller: “Rodan” is this noisy, sci-fi soundscape that feels like waking into some post-apocalyptic world. It’s like Mica Levi trapped inside a nuclear-powered oscillator. Quite stunning and overwhelming.

This isn’t even a third of the artists on this compilation. Artists like Dallas Acid, Joey, Automelodi, Thousand Foot Whale Claw, Virgin Pool, Sungod, Kyle Dixon, Samantha Glass, Bill Converse, and Skullcaster all seriously blow minds on this album. Not a dull moment here.

Holodeck Vision One is an epic listen. A glimpse into a music scene that is growing and thriving day by day. It’s a testament to the power of community and artists coming together for the greater purpose of creativity. It will blow your mind if you let it.

8.6 out of 10

Justin Sweatt : Say Your Goodbyes

Sometimes taking on an alias or persona can be a comforting thing, especially when you’re an artist. The moat and wall defense of a different name other than yours can give someone a sense of protection. It allows them to be more daring artistically and creatively than if they were standing before you, birth name and all, wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and their pair of favorite kicks. Behind the persona there’s a sense of freedom which can open an artist up, allowing them to get out on the ledge, scream at the Gods at the top of their lungs, and dig deeper than they could otherwise. A persona can turn an introvert into an extrovert, while still allowing them the luxury of being that quiet soul behind closed doors. When you’re in a band you can seemingly still be “yourself”, while being protected under the umbrella of a band name. As a solo artist it’s all you, and unless you’re Beyonce or Morrissey, well it can be a lot to take on as the kid everyone knew in school who’s amp stopped working mid-talent show.

For quite a few years now Justin Sweatt has released music as Xander Harris. The music of Xander Harris has moved through dark techno, EDM, heavy synth, ambient, and even elements of synth pop, all with the confidence of an artist that’s sure of himself and what he wants to convey. I don’t know Justin, so maybe he’s not a shy introvert in his everyday life. Maybe he’s just as big a personality as the music of Xander Harris sounds to be. But after listening to Say Your Goodbyes, the first album Sweatt has released under his own name, I’d go out on a limb and say that at least a part of him is more reflective and inward-looking than his persona Xander Harris. Say Your Goodbyes is really a remarkable collection of songs filled with longing and beauty. It feels like a period at the end of some grand statement. It’s much less about dark electronica and more about making amends, whether it be with estranged relationships or with yourself.

“The Girl With The Diamond Tattoo” sets the tone of the album. It’s a wistful, wide-eyed conversation of a song. A contemplative walk on the shoreline, or a sunset car ride to nowhere in-particular. Simple, breezy percusssion and hazy keys make this the kind of song you want in your head when taking the next step towards something new. “Booze Clues” puts me in mind of Tangerine Dream. Like Risky Business-era Tangerine Dream. Or those contemplative moments on Miami Vice. This is a late night cruise lit by neon lights. “A Light Boils Dim” veers into Vangelis territory. There’s a regal feel in the sparseness of the track. “Chasing Paper” has a feel that’s much lighter than previous Xander Harris tracks.

Listening to Say Your Goodbyes I can’t help but feel this is a musical side of Justin Sweatt that he’s wanted to share for some time. While not a 180 degree turn from his Xander Harris work, it does display a new tone. One that feels decidedly more sun-lit and positive. He seems to be conveying a hopefulness in tracks like “Touching From A Distance”, “Hello, Lonesome”, and “Eternal Return”. Or if not hopefulness, at least a wide-eyed honesty about where he is in the world now. No dark tones and pulsating beats. Just a raw energy coming from a new outlook. A guarded optimism.

I, like the rest of those Xander Harris fans out there, hope there’s more coming from Xander Harris. But if Say Your Goodbyes is indeed an ending to a musical era for the persona known as Xander Harris, I can say it’s a truly great start for a musician named Justin Sweatt.

8.3 out of 10

 

worriedaboutsatan : Shift EP

U.K.-based worriedaboutsatan are all about digging into the unknown and making something out of that darkness. There are elements of techno, dance, ambient, and heavy atmosphere in their work, with all of their musical voodoo coming to ahead on 2016s Blank Tape, their 3rd full-length. From that breakthrough record, the Yorkshire duo headed into the studio and recorded two improvisational sessions where they wanted to just hit play and see where their imagination would take them. No overthinking it, just in-the-moment creativity. The result is a two-track EP titled Shift. The album consists of “Shift(Part 1)” and “Shift(Part 2)” and it’s a dreamy, dystopian affair that has elements of Tangerine Dream, Vangelis, and even American composer Ben Lovett(check out his Synchronicity score for reference here.) It’s a stunning piece of work.

I spoke with Gavin Miller and Thomas Ragsdale last year about their band and the sound they create. Of their sound, Ragsdale stated “We used to be quite focused on making ‘dance music’, but since we’ve mellowed out in our 30s we’re more interested in writing music you can light a blunt to.” The guys said a lot more than that, and their music is more than just blunt-lighting fare, but I can see the advantage of an altered state of mind when listening to worriedaboutsatan, in-particular Shift.

Side A is “Shift(Part 1)”, a hazy, set-adrift-in-the-abyss kind of track. Think Lucifer Rising-meets-The Fog and you’ll have an idea of the musical trip you bought a ticket for. I think this is probably some of the most engaing music these guys have created. There’s something to be said for music that makes you groove as you zone out, but when you can get connected to the universe on a deeper level without 808 beats and Orbital-like grooves then that’s something(and kids, no blunts needed here.) “Shift(Part 1)” is very ominous to begin. You can imagine the Dark Lord himself rising from the fog searching for souls to take back to the Netherworld as this song opens. Dark ambient vibes mixed with Gothic chills take you into this world, but soon enough the vibe switches up a bit. Subtle percussive touches come in and there’s a melancholy that rushes over. It’s like Godley/Creme morphed with 80s Tangerine Dream. Guitars sound like they’re in an endless well as synths hang in the darkness.

“Shift(Part 2)” switches gears a bit and brings up the dancier tendencies of the band. A steady techno groove glides along atmospheric sonics and distant melody. Where Side A was the dark, Side  B feels like the light. This is a zone-out kind of track, letting the rhythm take over and pull you into the world worriedaboutsatan has made for us. There’s elements of Cluster, Kraftwerk, even Oneohtrix Point Never to some degree.

These two track were recorded in two semi-improvisational recording sessions at the duo’s home studio in Yorkshire. There’s a looseness here that evokes the feeling of those wild and woolly days in 70s Germany when the Komische, Berlin School cats were blowing minds whilst recording in their living rooms with stacks of synths and ancient drum machines. worriedaboutsatan have captured that feeling of exploration beautifully on these two improvised recordings.

Shift is a continuation of the eerie and intricate aesthetics worriedaboutsatan have been perfecting for the past 10+ years. Melancholy and atmospheric electronica mixed with post-rock vastness continue to permeate this Yorkshire duo’s sound, but this time around it all feels looser and more expansive. Shift is a welcome reprieve from the the imploding outside world.

You can download Shift here, and you can preorder the limited translucent green vinyl at Wolves And Vibrancy Records, which will be released on March 23rd.

7. 7 out of 10

 

Going Sølo : Nicklas Sørensen Talks Influences, Scat, and His New Solo LP

If you’re familiar with the Danish rockers Papir, then you’re quite familiar with Nicklas Sørensen. Sørensen is the guitarist for the three-piece psych rock outfit out of Copenhagen. His style is fluid, groove-filled and nuanced. He can go from heady post-rock passages that float on crystalline clouds to buzzing, fuzzed-out freak outs at the drop of a guitar pick. There’s a real intellectual quality to his style that is missing from so many modern players. Back in early 2016 Nicklas released his first solo LP titled Solo. Using his Papir bandmates as a rhythm section, the album was a tour de force of Michael Rother vibes and motorik beats that sounded like early Satriani and Dixie Dregs records, had they been influenced by NEU! ’75. In relation to other instrumental guitar album fare, Solo stood out as something completely new.

Nicklas Sørensen wasted no time recording album number two. Solo 2 was recorded with Jonas Munk at his Odense studio and this time around Sørensen kept the process to just himself and Munk. With Munk’s deft synth touches and some classic electronic drum machines, Nicklas built an even more unique listening experience. The results are stunning.

I recently spoke with Nicklas Sørensen about the album, the writing process, his influences, and how Eurodance led to A Tribe Called Quest, which led to “Smoke On The Water”.


J. Hubner: So where did you grow up? 

Nicklas Sørensen: I grew up in Bagsværd which is a small town in the suburbs close to Copenhagen.

J. Hubner: What age did you get into music as a fan? Did you have someone that was your musical mentor?

Nicklas Sørensen: I don’t remember what age exactly, but I think I was fascinated by music and instruments from a very early age. I remember collecting these Mr. Music-tapes containing a mixture of all these European hits from the 90’s; Scatman John and Whigfield just to name a few. I was around eight or nine then. A pedagogue was kind of a mentor for me. I was often bored and not really good a playing with the other kids, who wanted to play computer all the time, which I hated. But he made this mixtape for various hip hop groups for me, and I was listening to it all the time. Can’t recall what was on it though, probably A Tribe Called Quest, Cypress Hill – stuff like that. So hip hop and Eurodance was my first love so to speak. Rock’n’roll probably came from my father who played “Smoke on the Water” on vinyl for me, that’s the first rock’n’roll song I remember.

J. Hubner: Who were some of the first artists you fell for? Do you remember the first album you bought?

Nicklas Sørensen: Scatman John and Whigfield. I got my first stereo for my ten years birthday, and I wanted to buy Scatman John’s debut album, but for some reason I bougth a compilation called Dance Mix instead. That was my first CD.

photo by Jimmi Brandt

J. Hubner: When did you start to play music? Was guitar your first instrument?

Nicklas Sørensen: I started going in this youth club after school and formed my first band with some boys and girls from my class. I played drums. The pedagogues in the club encouraged and motivated us to play and make music. My father wouldn’t let me have a drum set though, so he gave me a guitar for Christmas instead. I played it every day and started hanging out with some guys from my school who played in another band, and soon I was good enough to join that band. We played Creedence and The Beatles and Guns’N’ Roses too. I also started taking lessons in classical guitar at the same time as I started playing in a band. There was actually a period where I thought classical guitar was going to be my life.

J. Hubner: When you started learning guitar, who were some of your musical heroes? Which guitarists blew your mind?

Nicklas Sørensen: I don’t recall I had any guitar heroes, but I started taking a few lessons in blues guitar also with this guy who was obsessed with Eric Clapton. So he got me through a lot of Eric Clapton licks and solos. What first blew my mind was probably a Danish band called Dizzy Mizz Lizzy, and the Danish guitarist Tim Christensen, who could play both heavy melodic riffs and majestic solos – I was really into that in my early teenage years.

J. Hubner: You’ve been putting out albums with Papir for quite a few years now. In early 2016 you released your first solo LP, titled Solo. When you decided you wanted to put out something on your own, what was the idea behind that first solo record? What, on your own, did you want to create that you couldn’t in a band?

Nicklas Sørensen: I used to see myself mainly as a “band person”. I have always been in bands and thought that was my channel for expressing my musical identity – so I guess it wasn’t really obvious for me why I should do a solo record in the first place. I remember Jonas and Jakob said something like “maybe you should do a solo record…?” or “you should really consider doing a solo record…with abstract sounds, new age, esoteric guitar or something like that”, and I was like “yeah maybe, we will see…” And then my girlfriend also started saying “I really think you should do that solo record”. Okay okay! And then in the end I thought, well why not – let’s see what I can come up with. I started experimenting with a loop pedal, and a lot of ideas just came floating. So I was too scared at that time to do it completely on my own and felt it would be nice to create the songs in more familiar context, so Papir was the obvious choice for a backing band and Jonas as a producer as well.

J. Hubner: Were you ultimately happy with how your first album on your own ended up? I personally loved it, btw.

Nicklas Sørensen: Yeah I think it turned out pretty good. I listen to it once in a while and it’s mostly a satisfying experience.

J. Hubner: So you are now releasing your second solo LP, titled ‘Solo 2’. There seems to be a lot more going on sonically this time. You worked on it with Causa Sui’s Jonas Munk and recorded at his studio. It’s a stunning album. How did the record come together? Were you creating guitar loops and then building upon those? Did you two discuss certain vibes you wanted to hit going in or did you just improvise and build the record as you went along?

Nicklas Sørensen: Again, I started with experimenting with loops and sounds on the guitar. Some old ideas, chord structures, themes, etc… And this time I had a more clear idea about the concept, that I wanted to try and make something without a band. But I still liked the idea of collaborating and sharing musical ideas. Jonas was the obvious choice, we definitely share a lot of musical references and to my ears he is a true master of working in details with the sound. He also contributed with a lot of different creative and musical inputs, so that a lot of significant details and the overall feel and vibe of the album is due to his mastery and creative mind.

J. Hubner: You seem to be a fan of Fender guitars(as am I). What was your guitar of choice for this album? What kind of gear did you guys use to create ‘Solo 2’ with? Any favorite pedals you won’t leave home without?

Nicklas Sørensen: Yeah, I have played my Strat for almost 16 years now! It’s all over the first album and on all the Papir albums. So that was also my choice for this album, hehe. I have a soft spot for digital delays – the classic Boss DD’s and my T.C. Flashback Delay are something that I always bring to the studio.

J. Hubner: Do you ever take your solo work out for live shows? Are there any plans to play any shows to promote ‘Solo 2’?

Nicklas Sørensen: I have played a few concerts – just me, my guitar and my pedals. I like that a lot, it’s nice “to be your own boss”. I don’t have any plans for shows this year, besides a duo concert with Jonas in april. But you never know.

J. Hubner: What’s next for you in 2018? Any ideas for the next solo album? Any new directions you’d like to take your guitar into?

Nicklas Sørensen: I have just got my hands on a 4-track recorder. I think I will spend some time alone experimenting with that. But yeah…no plans for anything specific yet. A new Papir album perhaps (we are already working on it). I guess I would like use more time on improvising and experimenting with sound and soundscapes.


Solo 2  will be released this Friday, January 19th on El Paraiso Records. Grab a copy here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nicklas Sørensen : Solo 2

Nicklas Sørensen most recently blasted dreamy, psychedelic swaths of guitar on Papir’s 2017 record V. Within that Danish three-piece psych rock outfit, Sørensen can go from post-rock stoicism to 60s fuzzed-out freak out in seconds flat. He’s erased those boundary lines that seemed to box in the “guitar hero”. Jazzy introspection, distorted wah wah, and progressive lines all meld into his style. That’s what makes his playing(and Papir for that matter) so unique and vital to modern rock.

In 2016 Sørensen released his first solo LP, titled Solo. It was an all-instrumental record that showcased his ability to use the guitar for more than heavy riffing and mind-melting. He created crystalline soundscapes and motorik-driven heady guitar tracks that veered from early Satriani to Robert Fripp-like perfection, while still retaining a “long drive on a summer night” vibe. He pushed the solo guitar record to a new level.

Nicklas Sørensen is back with his second solo LP on El Paraiso Records titled Solo 2. This time around he recorded the album with Jonas Munk in his Odense studio and the songs are a mixture of Sørensen’s fluid guitar loops and Munk’s analog synths(with some electronic rhythms thrown in for good measure.) The results are a tour-de-force of moody composition and otherworldly vibes.

Like his first solo adventure, the songs on Solo 2 are simply titled as numbers, like “2.1.”, “2.2”, and “2.3” and so on. It’s 6 tracks of slightly ambient, slightly psychedelic, and all-encompassing melody. “2.1” starts the album off on a Brazilian flavor, like some neo-futuristic Charlie Byrd doing his best bossa nova in outer space. The deft rhythmic touches, layered guitar lines, and the ethereal synths that float over the proceedings give the song an almost trance-like feel. This is what I’m talking about when I say Nicklas Sørensen erases those guitar hero boundaries. “2.2” opens with a simple guitar loop to which some melody counterpoints are added. Pretty soon simple percussion is thrown in with some light synth touches that give the song an almost 80s feel. As the song progresses you begin to get lost in the ether as guitars upon synths upon more guitars layer into a wall of beautiful drone. If NEU! had recorded with Richard Dashut in 1982 they might have sounded like this excellent track. “2.3” goes into a more contemplative space. The track itself gives off this sepia-toned feel; aged and weary of the outside world. It puts me in mind of the Brian Ellis & Brian Grainger album At Dusk with its guitar-meets-existential-drift vibe. It’s simply gorgeous.

If you’re listening to this on vinyl, dear readers, now would be the time to flip your record. As we make our way to side B we’re welcomed into this alternate musical reality where heady synths wisp around our heads as psychedelic guitars whirl in the air. “2.4” is carried along with electric piano and fluttering guitar notes that sound as if they’re playing in reverse. The space-y vibe is grounded by the tasteful fretwork of Nicklas Sørensen. Despite all the beautiful ornamentation, this is a guitar record don’t you know? “2.5” opens with a guitar line that puts me in mind of The Motels, but then we’re treated to some Michael Rother vibes in the psychedelic guitar lines in the background. Munk adds distant synth to fill in any gaps that may have needed to be filled. With headphones on this song will ease you into a much more calmer state of mind. “2.6” is all galactic vibes, like you’re looking over the fourth Chrystal Lake of Jupiter as a black hole is swallowing your mind. It’s a beautiful thing, really. Wavering drones slink in the distance as Sørensen plays some extremely tasteful guitar over everything. There’s a real Mark Knopfler feel to the tone of the guitar, but that’s before everything dissipates into a sea of ambient synth.

Nicklas Sørensen continues to push the solo electric guitar record to new levels. With the help of Jonas Munk he even bests himself this time around. He touches on Berlin School headiness and even Steve Reich roams the halls of this excellent LP. Solo 2 is a guitar record for both the musically intellectual and the person looking for some music to keep them company on a long car ride. You don’t have to dig deep to find the treasures here, but if you do you will be rewarded.

8. 2 out of 10