Spacemusic Reviews

Tag: Erik Wollo

Erik Wollo: The Shape of Time

The Shape of Time

Erik Wøllo: The Shape of Time
Released: 20 January 2023

Erik Wøllo believes that the greatest calling lies in contributing to the world’s store of beauty. Throughout a celebrated career he has displayed a radiant receptivity to this labor. The Shape of Time (62:30) is more than just ten tracks of ethereal music – they are symphonies of thought, miniature manifestos of reason, odes to the realization of existence, and pulsing with an aliveness quite real. With an extraordinary musical elegance and generosity of spirit, his work furtively constellates into masterworks of Spacemusic. Realized with an artist’s fervor for expression, The Shape of Time plays out into a world that will only be the richer for having heard it. As meaning blurs into music, we are drawn into the nocturnal landscape of the mind – where ultimate truth resides. Dark spheres of harmony congeal and spark against steel stringed electric guitar melodies writhing under half-built stars. Prowling in the lower range, dramatic gestures rise in calculated rhythms and nuanced variations. Conspicuous extensions, beginning all contained and subdued, ascend – scaling the heights of the angelic realm. A turning of texture over time, free of profanity, fear or frenzy, we bask in a golden hour consonance. Cloudlessly calm, with chords, phrases, and single notes suspended like brushstrokes of color on a white canvas, The Shape of Time is a thoroughly enlivening listening experience. Flawlessly constructed, and written like a dream, this album rises from mere luminous rumination to continents of sound set in shivering tonal plains. Brimming with beautiful moments, the cumulative effect is powerful. In his precision-tooled drift the serene allure of Wøllo’s work charms all those who attend. He is a world maker – an inventor of a richly appointed fantasy realm. May his music descend into your heart and elevate your soul – so that you may not remain idly numb to the wonders of this world.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END9 February 2023


Ian Boddy & Erik Wollo: Revolve


Ian Boddy & Erik Wollo: Revolve
Released: 16 September 2022

Night occurs while our side of the planet is facing away from the sun. During the darkness it may be easier to view the moon above studying us here on the surface – and receive the potential and possibilities La Luna brings us. Also perfectly happy traveling their own orbits Ian Boddy and Erik Wollo have changed trajectory just long enough to make Revolve (51:38) – a studio set of climactic chords, bewitching themes and richly arrayed wonders of rhythm and pulse. In a compulsively detailed mix of moods and impressions this duo pulls toward a hard chill. Across eight tracks momentum rises and falls in measured motion. Swirling under a circulation of synthetic sound, harmonies play and progress in a concord of affecting chromatic steps. Passing through assorted effects, Wøllo’s lead lines are poignant, ethereal and elegant – conjuring zones and tones known to few of his guitar contemporaries. Supporting the swell and contraction of scale we find Boddy’s passagework underpinning the luxurious lyricism. While shifting sequencer patterns run through a series of imaginative progressions, heart-felt strains and refrains unfurl in a rising ribbon of silvery silk. The direction theses tunes take is ever upward, with each resolution redolent of the future this music promises. Their sonics feel less supplied than turned loose. In one place exuding an ambient melancholy, then further in hitting the listener hard with expertly marshalled beats and grooves, a rapt, expectant air of exuberance vents. As voluptuous melodies become embedded in spacey structures the energy level rises by scalar steps. The back and forth between Boddy and Wollo shows a reflective tenderness. This heart-first doubleton derives meaning from simple forms, vague vibrations, and the unknown energies collaboration may release. Their magnificent album has been so carefully constructed that by the time the concluding notes bring us back to ourselves we are ready and willing to truly listen. Revolve feels from outside our own time. It speaks to an era – an era that has yet to come.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END8 September 2022

Erik Wollo: Inversions


Erik Wollo: Inversions
Released: 20 May 2022

Characterized by its simplicity and clarity Inversions (30:46) feels true to life. Here Erik Wøllo has managed to record seven gentle, soul-strengthening pieces of a quality more profound and resonant than most artists working in a similar vein. Spontaneously conceived and executed by conducting the output of his electric guitar into digital devices and effects this kind of improvising requires just as much listening as it does playing. The impulsive quality also notes a disarming honesty – an unfiltered truth. It is with great care and taste that Wøllo casts his tender spell of beauty. In just the right mixture of the earthly and the celestial he provides promising moments of affecting sentiment – that taken together convey a singular message. In a tone florid and rounded Inversions confers an aura of perpetually becoming. This collection of spacey slow burners gains slight bursts of color as ideas flow melodiously, rising out of experimental inclinations. A misty melancholy permeates as Wøllo charts a descent into darkness, and back. Coarse then sweet, timbre, melody and harmony divide our attention. Here and there the fog lifts a little bit, and we find reeling stars and midnight things. In an orchestra of looping lines a mournful lead line flickers like a lonely candle in the wind of time. Then the embattled twilight succumbs to a re-invasion of shadows. Listening our way through to the back end of evening we will notice that this musical spellwork is driven less by technology than it is by yearning and resignation – the most remote of all circuitry. Throughout these minimal passages and entrancing transformations the slightest gesture becomes much more significant. By avoiding the long and formless Wøllo builds an enjoyable ambient charisma of minute detail. The sound surface changes from feathery to hard edged, evoking a landscape terrain as surely as it does the amorphous aether above it. For the duration of this release the tone is intimate, but then so is the scale – a rare and cherishable quality in Spacemusic. Inversions presents a beguiling sonic sense – so much so that we owe it proof that we will one day become as free and as open as it asks us to be.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END – 25 August 2022

Erik Wollo: Sojourns

Sojourns Erik Wollo 2021

Erik Wollo: Sojourns
Released: 4 February 2022

Over his many years of music-making Erik Wollo has developed a striking, elegant vocabulary – which explains the lasting wonderment of his work. Sojourns (62’05”) casts ten lush arrangements brimming with promise. An extension of secret thought, here the most dramatic shifts are of the emotional kind. With melodies as immaculate as ever the liquid articulation of electric guitar arches upward in a studied sensitivity. The ascending and descending progressions of scales play out in a staggered staccato of sequencer patterns. The pulse, sometimes hesitant, remains alert, and Sojourns travels fleetly even while weighted in detail. A faint underlying rhythm drifts from the sonically spectral to the expressively enigmatic. A prowling arpeggio echoes in hollowed-out harmonies mysteriously suspended between major and minor. Further in, the withdrawn atmosphere gives way to the tempestuous, as the mood swings softly from one piece to the next. Fragile and hesitant, leisurely and contemplative, then bursting with exuberance, these compositions are among Wollo’s most clearheaded. As the materiality of the instruments disappears, we forget all about the smooth, shimmering synthesizers, and the steel strings of the guitar – about the tools it takes to produce such a sound. The cooly controlled performance and studio atmosphere gives way to a beautiful dream logic – a kind of beauty which always passes too quickly. These messages of personal expression speak to those who still listen. From out of a profound electronic imagination comes the subject of intimacy. This project is jubilant and exploratory, and maintains an irresistible momentum. On many moonlit journeys Sojourns will be the album you reach for first.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END3 February 2022

Erik Wollo: Winter Tide

Winter TideErik Wollo

Erik Wollo: Winter Tide/Live at Soundquest Fest 2021
Released: 20 July 2021

How many ways are there to be human? By seeking transcendence in the crucible of the concert Erik Wollo validates his existence in the showcase of live performance. With Winter Tide (60:14) he adds another enduring work to his discography – this one realized for SoundQuest Fest 2021. Released during a summer when thinking feels like a big ask, this eight part suite unfolds in slow, cooling sighs of sparkling synthetic sounds. As soaring guitar-driven anthems head for the sky, this album’s confident melodies hold fast to the heart. Sending his instrument through a labyrinth of digital processing Wollo’s playing yields a rich and varied palette of textures and tones. Alongside silvery lead lines he deploys chords of steel strings – which ride atop rising rhythms of electronic precision. The overflow of magical musical moments impacts us at a level deeper than that of words. Arresting, absorbing and rewarding, Winter Tide freezes time by inundating the mind with thought. Searching and contemplative, then striding into the deep, it achieves a satisfying, constant level of high thinking. The bright spots are incandescent, and we are moved by the concord of sweet sounds – only to sink into icy waters, where the turbulence really attracts the ears. The recital setting allowed room for risk. In this familiar space Wollo discovers a potent sense of drama – heard in the unique energy exuded throughout each track. Subtle in all the right ways Winter Tide was made for a particular kind of listener – determined to collect unique feelings and enjoy each span of sonic goodness while it lasts. Finding our way into this music is a familiar adventure – one where we learn the secrets that we knew all along.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END22 July 2021

Erik Wollo: North Star

North StarErik Wollo 2021

Erik Wollo: North Star
Released: 18 June 2021

Fans of Erik Wollo find his music so engaging that the act of listening leaves them little time for anything else. Leading us through the psyche of the artist his albums portray places not know until we reach them. A marvel in its structure, execution and heart North Star (51:09) reminds us of the power of music, the rigor of musicianship, the joy of creativity, and the realization of potential. Where the output of his contemporaries may unnerve, Wollo reassures. Exciting to behold North Star‘s eight tracks each have the distinct sensation of encountering a miraculous mind. As we step from our familiar moment into an alternative realm of swimming sonics and cerebral energy, listeners are transported deep into a world that we are eager to grasp. Exploring the potential of sending his guitar through an endless array of digital processors Wollo designs a rich and varied aural palette. The playing builds slowly, then proceeds in a measured surge of plucked steel strings, breathing chords and sustaining E-bow notes – all surrounded by a luxuriant atmosphere of harmony and texture. Submitting to this dreamy quality we find that each note seems to carry its own message. A new pleasure born every moment, themes linger just long enough to stir the memory. In profound moments of contemplation unnamable tones mingle with undulating drones. Elsewhere, forward motion is attained in North Star’s pulsing synthetic percussion and snaking electric guitar leads. Ghostly assemblages of drifting electronics merge to form bright major chords or mysteriously minor ones. As the soundscape darkens, dulcet melodies glide gracefully above waiting fading forms – stilled in the long cold between stars. Some pieces are of a scale that asks listeners to become lost in their dimensions, yet further in an intimate ballad offers familiar moments of stillness and repose – akin to one of life’s small redemptive mercies. As stargazers study The Universe, musicians ponder the mind, and what to fill it with. Listening to this work beneath the dark arch of the night sky we may imagine escaping the limitations of the Earthly plane. Throughout North Star Erik Wollo’s nuanced gestures are fully readable, and the music is exactly what it wants to be. Looking toward the stars, Wollo’s music heads straight for the heart – so that we may awaken to what is inside.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END17 June 2021

Erik Wollo: Recurrence

RecurrenceErik Wollo

Erik Wollo: Recurrence
Released: 22 January 2021

Erik Wollo occupies a special place in the space-time continuum. Realizing music that shifts between contemplation and intimacy, impulse and wonder, he seems to turn each moment of listening into something more vivid than is possible in any earthly spell of time. His Recurrence (64’14”) displays an impressive command of the sound-space. In tightly worked performances of rare focus Wollo draws on an apparent in-born mastery. Mingling rich tones, rhapsodic gestures and silken textures with bristling guitar lines and shimmering synth notes he creates harmonious landscapes – where our mind will find some peace. Wollo’s work always extends in a vast world embracing scope, and Recurrence moves outward amidst his distinctive design. Its eleven tracks (eight on the CD) fluctuate between restless sonic states and the more refined and elegant frequencies. The darkening then brightening of notes and chords repeat, then resist soft sequencer patterns. An alive atmosphere provides an area through which each piece may move. With generous applications of reverb and echo an airy halo seems to surround each note. Synthesizer voices blur one into the other, forming sonorous colors of striking beauty, as Wollo aims for the high horizons of the spirit. From a crisply articulated and confident control of the musical flow, to the singing sadness of electronic choirs and strings, Recurrence offers a wealth of serious, inviting complexity. Spacemusic has no higher aspiration than to rise the listener above their worldly concerns to a place where beauty speaks for itself. Erik Wollo’s advanced magic aims to provide this sense of renewal – as it transforms the knower in the living movement of music.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END4 March 2021

Erik Wøllo & Michael Stearns: Convergence

ConvergenceErik Wøllo & Michael Stearns: Convergence
Released: 28 August 2020

Spacemusic is equally complex at all scales. The majestic arrangement of sounds, notes and forms, even the silences become evident only when the music is surveyed over its largest extent. Yet, on a smaller scale the tones and timbres also impress – as it is through the manipulation of this sonic material that this genre enables its practitioners to make their most profound expressions. The music of Erik Wøllo & Michael Stearns flows across spatial scales. As might be expected from these notable names, their collaboration Convergence is a harmonic match for all the enigmas of the Universe. Playing beyond you the listener, beyond now, this duo freely roams through the colorful depths of their imaginations. Achieving a beautiful dramatic cohesion Convergence shows how firmly each musician has grown into his own identity – which has been admirably interweaved into each composition. This album comes at us with the force and sophistication of high art, provoking questions, yet still works to shore up the spirit. Chords shift surely, gradually craving that which is just out of reach. Charmed melodies and delicate choirs signal vastness, as limber, lucid leads exalt through incandescent voices and strings. Between Stearns’ high-sheen synth-craft and Wøllo’s striking guitar artistry their ten well-honed tracks aim for smart production and continuity, for a sound that feels effortlessly theirs. Profoundly otherworldly, but always reassuringly human, Convergence occasionally gestures at the New Age, but then quickly reasserts the dreamy brilliance of its cosmic music credentials. Traversing a wider spectrum of emotions than is typically covered by the more technology-minded acts, Wøllo & Stearns present their atmospheric constructs in swaths of electronics and floating mists of harmony – in hopes of enlivening the awesome potential of the individual mind-space. By bringing something of their cosmos into our listening area, we may feel their message, and some measure of peace.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END27 August 2020

Erik Wollo: Infinite Moments

Infinite Moments

Infinite Moments

Erik Wøllo: Infinite Moments
Released: 4 January 2019

Often, music will reflect the state of the times in which it is being made. Fortunately for us, Erik Wøllo is making music not for our now, but for our future. The album Infinite Moments (57’32”) is a journey into Wøllo’s beliefs and perception of the world, and is powerful in ways that words cannot capture. Playing his electric guitar with an e-bow through a substantial amount of digital processing, he approaches these six sonic flights with a stable sense of serenity. In a masterful, tightly controlled performance his thick, spare, sometimes ominous approach conveys the joy of living, but also a few shades of solitude and isolation. Gone is the familiarity of the six-string tones. Bearing the drama of Wøllo’s slow melodies and embracing harmonies are his rounded, flexing sounds – which arrange themselves comfortably throughout the listening space. Breathing chords, friendly rather than foreboding, emerge, sustain and recede – drawn out in echoing waves of gentle tones. The explored realms pass between pastel cloud sunsets and the velvet cloak of night, to a place of private understandings. Charged with electrical nuance and the questioning nature of proper Ambient Music, Infinite Moments delivers the expected shivers. A completely meditative work, it is as if we are hearing the sound of the cosmos being filtered through 21st century technology. Wøllo observes the granular texture of reality, the severity of its miracles, and the range of its grace. For fans and novices of Spacemusic… Infinite Moments is a must.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END7 March 2019

Erik Wollo: Threshold Point

Threshold Point

Threshold Point

Erik Wøllo: Threshold Point
Released: 27 April 2018

The music of Erik Wøllo has more places to chill than an igloo. His album Threshold Point (60’37”) features nine tracks that run in cool, unpredictable swerves and drifts of conversation. Always meeting the harmonic demands of his audience, Wøllo clothes supple melodic lines in a blanket of synthesized consonance. Climbing gradually and gracefully to its highest point, then with dignity traveling home again, his guitar solos conjure places known to but a few contemporary musicians. While so many rows of notes dance in all the pleasant complexities of syncopation, echoing up and down their scales, we listeners may rest – contently attuned with this beauty. In building Threshold Point Wøllo used rhythm, tone and pitch as his raw material. Here, rhythm is an appeal to the feelings, rather than an exercise of mathematical faculty. Tone combined with mood delivers a distinctive atmosphere, and tuneful arrangements of pitch brings the listener to a point of emotion – which then (as an element in the structure of each piece) leads to a feeling for climax. We will find no formal border between Wøllo’s music and the mainstream, as his work resides safely at the northern fringes of this realm. Identified by its boreal cursive elegance, Threshold Point displays a level of inventiveness that most musicians have not yet reached. So much of modern music and art is meant to provoke – inciting us to apply meaning. Erik Wøllo does believe that the world needs more people thinking, learning, and thereby becoming better. But he knows that society grinds on us enough so why should his music? From the steady and true creative engine of this man we hear his art, and cannot help but feel his humanity.

Chuck van Zyl/STAR’S END7 June 2018