Norwegian guitarist Eivind Aarset has a unique sound print, expressionistic and immediately recognizable, layered and incorporating elements of ambient music, psychedelic rock and art-rock, modern jazz and noise, and intensified with electronic sonic manipulations and addictive grooves. «Phantasmagoria, or A Different Kind of Journey» is another chapter in Aarset’s multifaceted sonic experience. This album was released at the Punkt Festival in Kristiansand and is a soundtrack to an inner journey of remembered or imaginary landscapes and spaces; a travelogue of musical styles, sounds and eras; a simulacrum of the live touring experience.
The rich, poetic sonic tapestry of «Phantasmagoria, or A Different Kind of Journey» was developed collectively by the Aarset 4tet – bassist Welte Holte and drummers Erland Dahlen and Audun Erlien and Aarset on guitar, with all four musicians adding electronics to their arsenal, with guests – trumpeter Arve Henriksen, samples of Jan Bang, and field recordings and treatments of John Derek Bishop. Its highly nuanced soundscapes may sound more straightforward than previous albums of Aarset, but, still, all find new threads in unexpected colors, of innovation and reinvention. The cover art painting of an abstract landscape by British Karen Sherwood suggests these colors.
The Aarset 4-tet itinerary visits surprising and enigmatic sonic sceneries and begins gently with the hazy, psychedelic vibe of the seductive dreamscape «Intoxication». The following «Pearl Hunter» navigates the journey into a light and spacious, Bossanova-tinged groove. Soon this layered groove kicks in great intensity with Aarset’s post-rock, noisy and effects-laden guitar on «Outbound, or Stubb1», and morphs again into the cinematic, mysterious and restless sci-fi atmospherics of «Duløc, or The Cat’s Eye».
Henriksen introduces exotic and breezy undercurrents to the dreamscape «Manta Ray, or Soft Spot», gently swings with the vintage synths and the loose, waves-like groove, but the Aarset 4tet immediately return to its layered and muscular yet addictive, heavy dance-like groove on the aptly-titled «Didn’t See This One Coming», and drifts again into the deep space with «Soft Grey Ghosts», ornamented with Bang’s evocative samples. The journey reaches another mysterious, dense and nervous destiny on «Inbound or Stubb2», but ends in a nostalgic and brighter atmosphere in «Light on Sanzu River», a loose adaptation of «Waiting on a Boat» by Anneli Drecker (from her «Rock & Straws», Rune Grammofon, 2015, with Aarset on guitar and Erland Dahlen on drums), with poetic treatments of Derek Bishop. This beautiful, optimistic song suggests that we may reach better times and places after experiencing this inspiring journey of remembered or imaginary landscapes and spaces.
Wetle Holte (dr, perc, metallophone, drum prog, mellotron, org), Erland Dahlen (dr, perc, logdrum, vib, drum prog), Audun Erlien (b, Casio synth), Eivind Aarset (g, elec, edits), Arve Henriksen (tp), Jan Bang (samples), John Derek Bishop (field rec, treatments)