Helt Borte

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Making as good on the label's name as conceivably possible, in 2011, Smalltown Supersound reissued this obscure 2007 album by a duo from Vardø, a tiny fishing village at the northern tip of Norway. Regardless of the cosmic significance -- or not -- of this seemingly improbable event (it might have something to do with the fact that one of the duo is noted electro/disco producer Rune Lindbaek, who happens to have released a similarly minded album as one-half of Meanderthals, also on Smalltown Supersound), it's certainly a boon for fans of slow, spacy, ambient synth music (Biosphere, Stars of the Lid, Tangerine Dream). In tritely predictable but nevertheless redolent fashion, Helt Borte sounds about as wintry, primordial, elemental, glacially paced, and remote as you would expect of sounds emanating from such a distant, arctic locale. Titling one track "Snowflakes" and filling it with placidly twinkling synthetic bell-tones may be pushing things a bit far -- or maybe not -- but suffice to say this music will stand up to any sort of slumbering snowdrift/Aurora Borealis imagery you want to throw at it. So yes: Pechenga's music may not be boundary-pushing, cerebrally stirring, or in any way original. At the same time it is, absolutely, haunting, entrancing, and lush, and not in a cheap or facile way, either. The basic musical methodology, throughout, rests on sinuous, slow-moving melodies and deep, thick synthesizer drones, often eerily dark and brooding ("Ununoktium," "Pechenga," "My Frozen Spirit"), sometimes ethereal and serene ("Ultima Thule"; "Hamningberg," which is named for another, even tinier town in northern Norway). Sometimes other elements flit their way through, as with the languid, almost bluesy guitar figure which makes "Gitaro" ("guitar" in Esperanto) probably the most distinctive and memorable thing here, or the shards of harp splintering the title track, or even the occasional pan flute. The California-based producer Hatchback recently proclaimed the dawning of a "New Age of New Age." You could argue about whether it ever really went away in the first place, but in any case, Helt Borte suggests that new age had in fact already returned, at least a few years earlier than he might have realized.

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