[Reviewed by stark]
I remember my first encounter with Tobias Hellkvist’s music. It was about three years ago, when I had bought a bunch of Home Normal albums, some Bvdub, Taishi Kamiya, an amazing David Wenngren & Christopher Bissonnette collaboration, two other CDs… and “Everything is Connected” by Tobias, of whom I knew nothing back then. I won’t lie, I liked the cover, but what’s more important, I trusted (and still trust) Ian Hawgood’s musical taste and I was sure I wouldn’t be disappointed. And you know, the first track on that release, “Fjällbacka” and that majestic yet emotional drone, which I felt could be the extension of the “Limbo” videogame’s main theme. Those of you who’ve played it know that “Limbo” is proof that some videogames should also be treated as works of art. I liked the remaining six compositions, but it was “Fjällbacka”which carved a beautiful mark on my heart, and I was listening to over and over again for many weeks. Tobias hasn’t been very active since. A short album here, an EP there, but now he’s back under the Home Normal banner with the reissue of “Kaskelot” EP (enriched with several remixes) and the new album “Vesterhavet”.
It may be a little bit confusing, because some of you may have already had the opportunity to listen to “Vesterhavet” on the musician’s Bandcamp. Indeed, in March 2016 he released a digital version, but if you don’t like the binary, unsubstantial form of media, Home Normal provides you with a CD containing an additional track and a “Warmth Remix”. So for physical fetishists like me it’s a nice surprise. I have to admit that this album didn’t cause on me a “wow” effect, however not because it’s worse than its predecessor. Now I simply knew who the guy was and what to expect more or less. Even though four years have passed, “Vesterhavet” can be considered as a follow-up to the artist’s previous work for Home Normal. Even the artist himself admits that – after all everything is connected.
Perhaps the 2012 offering was more serene in its nature. Or maybe it’s just my impression. No matter how you approach ‘Vesterhavet’, you’re dealing with deep drone textures that will cover you and your environment completely. You can search for a deeper meaning, for clues hidden in the mist. They are here, obviously, in single sounds or in complete structures, like the blisfully noisy finale of “Vesterhavet 3” or something that reminds one of reverberating bells in “Vesterhavet 4”. You can hunt for the tiny details and I guarantee that it will be a very rewarding action, but you also can just lie in your bed, close your eyes and let the music wash your mind and soul away. Drift with it into the unknown. Do not resist or struggle, it will cause you no harm.
Both approaches are fine, the intellectual as well as the spiritual one. The music may seem static at first, but the truth is that all the tracks develop beautifully, acquiring another layer with every passing minute, becoming more epic and spatial.
No further words are necessary, let the music speak for itself. Hellkvist’s ambient craftmanship is undeniable, so I strongly suggest that you take an interest in “Vesterhavet”. Especially since the CD version will be limited to 200 copies only.