Per Henrik Svalastog, from the Nordic school of ambient electronica, has recently delved into a different space-time than the one with which he is usually associated. Keeping one foot in DSP, he has begun to explore the time-stained world of Scandinavian folk music, and he’s brought back the traditional sounds of Norway’s ancient past to build new things with.
Folktronica is not a new idea. The blending of acoustic and digital is no longer a novel juxtaposition, but well trodden terrain. When Svalastog improvises on archaic folk instruments he found in his grandfather’s barn, instruments like the harpeleik (Norwegian Zither), Bukkehorn (Ram’s horn) and Kuhorn (Cow’s horn), and then expertly processes them in the computer, it’s a concept that we are used to. It’s not dissimilar to the found-sound reworkings of Opiate or The Boats.
In his most recent album, Woodwork
(Rune Grammofon, 2006), the harpleik is the backbone of complex structures built from history and the tunes are undeniably beautiful, but there is more. Svalastog’s narrative is personal. His inspiration is drawn from his folk-musician grandfather who after losing his fingers in a sawmill accident led a prohibition against music, dancing and all that was modern.
Svalastog’s resurrection of his grandfather’s un-modern instruments in a loaded context is more than a novelty; it ‘s a re-construction - a complex and gentle architecture that we are being shown through.
Per Henrik Svalastog is from Tromsø, in the far north of Norway. Tromsø, the land of the northern lights, polar nights and the midnight sun, and also of Biosphere, Alog, Bel Canto and Röyksopp. He is a veteran of the Norwegian electronic music scene, active since the early 90s solo and in collaborations. One of the best-known collaborations has been the project Information with Jørgen Knudsen, with three releases on Rune Grammofon. Inescapable as the comparisons are, there is in fact a close relationship between the music of Information and the wide open space sounds of Biosphere
and Alog, though sources and inspiration for Svalastog and Jørgen were processed found sounds.
Aside from Information’s Biomekano
release, Svalastog is best known in the Rune Grammofon catalogue for his Spunk
remix on Filtered By Friends. He is a member of the groups Lack Of Memory, Pacemaker and Time Probe, works with the theatre and performance group Baktruppen and has composed music for the dance company Carte Blanche. He has worked around the world as an architect, musician, DJ, stoneworker and performance artist. He is based in Oslo.
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