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Sverre Knut Johansen — Dreams Beyond
(Spotted Peccary SPM-3005, 2020, CD)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2020-10-05

Dreams Beyond Cover art

For his fifth release on the Spotted Peccary label (and ninth album overall) Johansen has created a set of soundpaintings that, unlike many of his previous releases, aren't tied to any lofty, earthly, or sci-fi concepts. The nine instrumental pieces here stand on their own, adventurous musical visions that open the door to what might be soundtracks to dreams, propelled through visionary horizons and dramatic enveloping environments. Working at his Space Center studio, Johansen creates the pieces using synths, software instruments, electric guitars and effects, and electronic percussion, playing all of the instruments himself other than some guest cello on the album’s final track, “Human Connection.” With only a couple exceptions, the compositions are mostly in the eight to eleven minute range, offered up as extended immersive panoramas inspired by the album’s surreal cover art created by Michal Karcz (there are six panels in the cover, plus a four-page booklet with three images). Following a short four-minute intro piece, the journey gets underway in earnest with “Awakening,” a piece that shifts around rhythmically while synths paint sparkling background textures and soaring guitars offer soulful and colorful brilliance. The follow-on, “Skylight,” leads the listener through a sequenced labyrithine meditation with curious sonic mysteries randomly illuminating the background. One might be forgiven for thinking that the bird and insect sounds on “Tatra Mountains” (a range that divides Poland and Slovakia) are some kind of field recordings, when in fact they were created with a special Oscar programmable synthesizer, while the foreground throughout the piece is built on expressive synths, sequences, and shimmering textures that intermittently bloom and pass from view. With an entrance like a pillow of soft clouds, “Causeway” is dripping with power, color, and glistening beauty, with gentle mysterious percussives that grow as the piece proceeds along its path. All taken, Dreams Beyond takes the listener on an immersive journey without any conceptual baggage.

Filed under: New releases, 2020 releases

Related artist(s): Sverre Knut Johansen

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