[Reviewed by stark]
I decided to make this a combined review, because somehow it happened that during the last few weeks I started to treat the latest albums by As If and Urenga as a whole, as a two-and-a-half-hour long double CD release, different in several aspects, but having a common basis and in terms of color and dynamics its two parts complementing one another. As If comes from Denmark, while Urenga is a Hungarian project. Both artists already have a release at gterma, both have already been our guests at Santa Sangre. Therefore, I’m afraid that by writing separate reviews I’d have to be repeat myself at least a few times while touching the same issues that have been touched in the texts about “Faraway Trees Standing Still” and “After Rain”.
First, I reached for As If’s “Havet” CD. It was late, well after midnight. I was sitting on an armchair in a half-dreamy state, slightly intoxicated with a couple of beers I’d had before, and was trying to read a book. With a few more tracks flowing, “Torden”, “Strand”, “Strøm”, I realized that I’m no longer in a cramped apartment in the block of an industrial city of Southern Poland, but somewhere near the sea coast. Europe, but not Southern, because it’s not particularly warm, but still pleasant. Maybe Western, Normandy or Brittany? Subtle, not particularly original, but very charming. Delicate beats and pulses give the music some dynamism, sometimes you may even try to swing your body a little, though of course without exaggeration. As I mentioned, atmospherically it may not be very warm, but sonically, by all means. The gentleman with the A.P. initials once again gets a gold medal mastering performance.
Kenneth avoids trips into different musical terrains, experiments for the sake of experiments, because the album is stylistically compact, and the greatest deviations from the norm are at most the delicate synth sequences in “Klippe” and “Tagen” reminiscent of 80s electronics. But that’s it, in all other cases spacious ambient dub is the game we’re playing here.
The next day, I decided to repeat the experiment, this time consciously. My girlfriend went to sleep, even my cats gave up and laid down first. I waited until my eyes began to slowly sink and then I turned on “Pacific Depths” by Urenga. And, guess what, it worked again. Outside the window, the black transformed into an intense blue, all the cars in the parking lot, the transformer station and the block next to mine were flooded with cascades of salt water, the pigeons were replaced by seagulls and the sun shone as bright as never before in Katowice. But then I quickly plunged into the depths of the Pacific (as the title says), the sun rays were breaking down on the water surface, shoals of small fish were deftly avoiding contact with my body, and when I looked down I could see only the impenetrable blackness. Urenga’s rhythms are subtle, not so much brought to the fore as in As If, though when it comes to style both albums are related. However Urenga seems somehow more mysterious, not so straightforward. Or maybe this ambient factor is just more emphasized than on “Havet”? I also feel that the sea theme on “Pacific Depths”is stronger not only because of the wider use of field recordings.
Still, I’m stuck in this tight hole. Cold outside, loudness on crowded streets, the cars want to kill me. Both “Havet” and “Pacific Depths” realize how much I miss being torn out of the city to a place where there’s but a few people (or no people at all), but a lot of water and open space. Urenga and As If don’t say anything new, but it’s like with those fairy tales that children like to hear over and over again, a thousand times or more, even if they know the ending. When it comes to this variety of ambient, I’m still a kid.