Review: Henrik Nordvargr Bj?rkk “Vitagen” CD

With this latest full-length from the always prolific Henrik Nordvargr Bj?rkk you'll be greeted with more than 50 minutes of sinister dark ambient soundscapes, beginning with the longest track, "Steril", which runs more than eight minutes of rather thick, droning persistence. I don't care for the sample employed in "I See Shadows", but thankfully once that subsides the deep resonance and reverberating textures of the piece fill the space quite well, as crisper shuffling textures appear on occasion to provide additional detail; while "Voidum" becomes a bit glitchier in the distance behind more dark drones and hums that swell back and forth and create a rather suffocating presence throughout. "Orgasmo Nero" is among the most ominous passages, as strange metallic squealings sway to and fro over rumbling undercurrents of low-end for a consistent and hypnotic delivery that feels a little more visually suggestive than some of the preceding work. "Munus" then changes the pace yet again by introducing a faint sense of melody that actually works quite nicely to add a restrained and controlled sense of very subtle musicality to an otherwise minimal dark ambient track; before some of the glitchier directions heard in "Voidum" return to a sparser, subtler level in "Surreal Adaptation" (which makes far stronger and more specific use of a nice sample at the very end). "Omega" is somewhat similar to the opener in its use of persistently droning hums, but the percussive thuds added to the distance definitely break up the monotony and work well with the throbbing electronics that come in later to add more structure and abstract musicality. As a result you could almost argue that this selection sort of clashes with the surrounding material, but while not exactly a clean match with its surroundings, it's still a very cool piece, so... Back to form, "Snokth" once more returns to lightly glitchy undercurrents and obfuscated little melodies crisply hovering over distant waves of bass for a thinner sounding track that stands apart well. Then "Sesso Nero", a live improvisation, closes things out with a little over seven minutes of percussive snippets and cascading tiers of faint ambience in the background - quite similar to several of the other tracks both in terms of general approach and overall recording quality, which is a nice touch. The disc is housed in a nice looking brown digipack with a satin finish and a nice embossed border on the cover. Sadly the photography employed doesn't interest me in the least and in my opinion doesn't really represent the tone of this music well at all, but... there must be a specific reason for the choice, I imagine. And while certainly not my favorite work from Henrik's vast collection of projects and outings over the years, "Vitagen" is still another in a long line of very high quality, if still unessential, experimental noise records that should appeal to a number of his longtime fans more accustomed to his ambient spectrum. Not bad.

Running time - 52:03, Tracks: 9
[Notable tracks: Orgasmo Nero, Munus, Snokth]
Essence Music -