Wednesday, July 21, 2021
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Johan Agebjörn and Mikael Ögren: Artefact

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Artist: Johan Agebjörn and Mikael Ögren (@)
Title: Artefact
Format: CD + Download
Label: Spotted Peccary Music (@)
Rated: * * * * *
'Artefact' is the second collaboration between Swedish electronic music artists Johan Agebjörn and Mikael Ögren after 'We Never Came To The White Sea.' They're calling this album "an unofficial soundtrack inspired by Arthur C. Clarke’s classic novel Rendezvous with Rama, where the artists explore another wilderness: the unknowable vastness of space." You don't have to read Clarke's novel to appreciate this album though, but you will have to have a love of things "not of this earth." I don't always do this, but before we begin with the description/review, I thought you might want to know what equipment was used on this album. Here's the list: Access Virus Indigo II, Alesis Micron, Clavia Nord Lead 2, Kurzweil K2000, Novation Supernova, Propellerheads Reason II (with Korg MonoPoly), Roland DJ-70, Roland JD-800, Roland JP-8000, Thoraiz AS-1, Waldorf Blofeld, Yamaha AN1X. You'll notice that list includes a lot of analog gear, some of it rather old school. I think that's very cool. In spite of all the great gear, it don't mean a thing if the imagination and execution isn't there, but it is here, in abundance I might add. Also aboard for some of this outing are Stefan Strand (Between Interval) and Johan Emmoth (Le Prix), as well as guest vocals by Martina Björk on one track.

The album is twelve tracks and approximately 64 minutes in length, plenty of time for your galactic voyage, with track titles such as "Extravehicular Activity," "Static Air," "Octapod," "Interplanetary Threat," and "Space Travel," to remind you of where you're going. The first track is a brief atmospheric setup for the trip, which really begins on the next one, "Passing the Gates." The music is a balance between space ambient and space rock, never getting carried too far into either direction. The pacing is really great, and when the (mostly simple) melodies arrive, they're as welcome as an old friend you haven't seen in years. The synth sounds won't be unfamiliar, but they are used very effectively. Where there is a rhythm track (and they're used fairly often on this album) it tends to be understated, never dominating the proceedings, yet compellingly inducing momentum. The real star here though is the sequencer, or rather the sophisticated use of it. While the old Berlin School of electronic music relies heavily on it, the sequencing here isn't confined to that rudimentary trancey sort. There are times when multiple sequences are in play and you may not even notice it for the first few listens.

The melodicism on 'Artefact' is undoubtedly going to remind you of other electronic artists. For me, Patrick O'Hearn in particular comes to mind, but you can catch wisps of Jean Michel Jarre, Steve Roach, and similar artists. Similarities aside, this is an incredibly immersive listen that should not disappoint any space music enthusiast. While there is some inevitable NASA type space chatter, it's kept to a minimum.

Various different moods, styles and motifs are explored, ranging from the coldness and vastness of space thing, to funky passages, themes of grandeur, percolating rhythms, and even some proginess ("Octapod"). Over all though, balance seems to be the byword, the content not leaning too much toward the dark or the light; not too heavy nor too airy; not too simple nor too complex; and definitely not steeped in "New Age." In fact, I don't think you could call this a New Age album at all, unless you were describing the new age of space music, which would be absolutely fine. Highly recommended!

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