The fourth Ghost and Tape album was released on the nomadic (Japan/UK/Poland) Home Normal label and it is a perfect fit for artist and label. Mastered by James Plotkin with photography by Hitoshi Ishigara and layout design by Jason van Wyk and label boss Ian Hawgood, “Vár” sees Heine Christensen inspired by nature. According to the artist “This album is inspired by and a tribute to Nature, in all its wonderful chaos; pure and forceful with mystifying, beautiful patterns. The word ‘Vár’ itself means spring, and originates in Old Norse, symbolising a new beginning, a chance to start fresh.”
“Sprout” opens with slightly distorted melodic tones and shimmering hum-like ambience. Buzzing bee like electronics starts scattering around the fringes of the tones threatening to over power them, but manages to come close to the intensity of the melodic tones. A third electronic source, a drone enters in the final minute of the track which over powers the tones and electronics and leads to more ambient territory with broken tones still being slightly heard giving a feeling of the sound of water running in a creek.
“Eostre” is the Germanic goddess of Spring and Dawn (and the apparent name for Easter) sounds like a dawn chorus with micro clicks, glitches, field recordings that sound like noise of nature (earth sounds, movement of things) and layers of drones. The drones have the feeling of hazy warmth with a bed of fuzz throbbing underneath while soaring drones cascade over and melodic tones reverberate out. Although no instrumentation is listed, the feeling is manipulated guitar tones, synths and samples are used. There is a warmth to the piece which makes me think of dawn and the early increase in heat of the day.
“Monarch” opens with a drone which ripples out and oscillates before being joined by others of various intensities and colours. Granular sounds enter the fray exhibiting the same qualities as the drones and are washed over with beds of ambience and tones which are spindly and soaring. Guitar is a welcome addition with its gently strummed strings giving a deep dimension of sound. The sounds converge and wash over each other with a hive like intensity which is best noted at just over five minutes into the track which leads the track to its ending with layers of electronic spluttering.
“Hatch” field recordings of wind, bird song and someone or something walking through tall grass or scrunching things are joined be delicate and minimally spaced melodic tones which shimmer and hold drones as they radiate out. The track reminds me of Australian artist Cornel Wilczek aka Qua who can produce melodic tones that also sound like they are degrading, much like they do in this track. It’s almost as if something is breaking down which is noted by the way the track just stops.
“Anemone” looped tones with cascading transmissions that circle around your ears are accompanied by meditative guitar that sounds as if it was recorded on cassette and the tape came out and got warped when it was wound back in. Train like rattling sounds in the background give as close as you are going to get percussion on a Ghost and Tape album, but give a rhythm for the looped tones and guitars to sort of anchor to as they pulse in and out.
“Solsort” references the Blackbird, a territorial bird known for attacking other males. The track, while not attacking has the darker tones than those that have preceded it. There are scattershot electronics that jag around, Eon-esque soaring sky like ambience, shimmering electronics that chug in certain places, long guitar tones which radiate out and electronics that remind me of Morse code tones.
“Vár” returns to the field recording/ environment feeling previously heard in the likes of “Eostre” with the sounds feeling they have come from a lake area early in the morning. Chimes and synth ambience are joined by well spaced out electrical pulses and glitches. This is as close to electronics as Ghost and Tape will get to. Tones are manipulated and semi looped as not to be predictable and offer a focus for the listener while the other elements wash over each other. Towards the ends the field recordings and glitches tones remain after the other elements have dropped out. These are then joined by distorted shortwave radio-like transmissions which lead to the end.
“Seabird” field recordings of storm like wind sounds which are gentle and joined by warm drones, degrading glitches, swathes of ambience and delicately played minimal guitar. There is a high quality of ambience as if looking down surveying the ground below you, which may be why the track is called “Seabird” and why the elements sort of undulated like waves. The music is meditative and slow taking its time to unfurl and gently reveal itself with a depth of layers.
Over the course of four albums in seven years, with the others appearing on Schole and Slaapwel as well as Ep’s on Rural Colours and Hibernate, Heine Christensen has created his own place in the ambient scene with his thought out minimalistic, micro glitches and melodic tones. Expertly mastered by the former experimental grindcore practitioner Plotkin, “Vár” is a trip down the sun soaked dappled miniatures of Ghost and Tape and lives up to both his history and that of Home Normal’s class of 2017. Recommended.