Svarte Greiner - Black Tie LP

I'm not sure I'll hear another album this good - metal or otherwise - in 2013.

Black Tie, the latest from Norwegian dark ambient artist Erik Skodvin's project Svarte Greiner, has been grabbing my attention off and on for weeks, and though it immediately, upon first listen, wrapped its tentacles tightly around me, over the past week or so its embrace has become so powerful that it has changed me in some way that I don't think I can fully understand. At least not yet.

The album is divided into two distinct movement- side A is the title track, and side B is called "White Noise." "Black Tie" is perhaps the darkest and grimmest Svarte Greiner moment yet, wholly uninviting and uncompromising in its direction. It starts off very slow and almost hushed, but that doesn't last long. As the track develops around echoing, droning ambiance, discordant strings (cello, I believe) enter the picture and slow-motion chaos erupts. Crashes of distorted bass build a barrier around the listener, refusing to let you out of what you've stepped into. Once you reach the end and the disorder that has defined your trip has settled down, you know you're stuck, and you're not quite sure what to make of your surroundings. As "White Noise" begins, you open your eyes and realize that you've awaken in a field of gossamer - not entirely uncomfortable, but still uncertain. The reverberating synthesizer drones that characterize this track sound like all hope may not be lost, that there may after all be an end to the madness.

What's truly amazing about this record is that no matter how ambiguous and downright noisy and hazy it gets, it always feels like an organic experience. That's a term that means different things to different people, and I'm not sure how to clarify what I mean, except to say that it sounds completely hand-made. You can hear the hands strike the instruments and turn the knobs, and that's why I really can't get enough of this album. It sticks with me, and to me, providing sustenance for an otherwise damaged soul.

So full of promise, tension, and ultimately heartbreak, the uncertainty of this record will hypnotize you and leave you considering the possibilities. Perhaps everything is somehow going to be okay, despite the ominous darkness above. Or maybe the end is imminent. At first, I was willing to bet on the latter, since Skodvin himself has referred to his music as "acoustic doom," but it's impossible to be sure with a record this difficult. Either way, you'll know that the manner in which you've looked at the world has been inherently flawed, that you've been missing something all along - something that might not be any clearer to you now, but at least you know it's there.

It's the first Svarte Greiner album that Skodvin has released on his own label, Miasmah. It can be had from any number of places. Most notably, in North America, go to Experimedia to get it, and from Boomkat in Europe. Available on LP, CD, or digital download.

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