On ‘En Ros Rod Som Blod’ Jonas Rönnberg realises his finest work yet by bringing together the myriad trademarks that have encompassed his material as Varg. Here that diverse signature is refined, intensified and taken to unprecedented depths.
Where the first volume of his three-part Nordic Flora series cleaved to blunt, adrenalized and often meteoric techno, here the scope expands, incorporating the rustling draughts and exospheric drift of dark ambient as well as the miasmic snarls of acid noise. The results are often stunning, revealing over time a luminescent, sub-zero vision both alienated from and distantly connected to the demands of a notional dancefloor.
Perhaps the shift in register, from the robust conveyance of the four-track first edition to the downcast, monumental slow stirs and excursive straying of this volume, is explained by the origin of the source. Abdulla Rashim’s Northern Electronics released the first Nordic Flora collection whereas on this occasion Loke Rahbek’s Posh Isolation has handled proceedings. Although the sum of their explorations feel united by a pervasive and fluid exchange between ambiguity, severity and cinematic sorrow – not to mention their shared Scandinavian heritage - there is divergence between them, with NE tending to remain purposeful, unerringly functional and rooted in techno and PI displaying an inclination for the esoteric, the elusive and the extreme ends of noise, drone and ambient. Somehow both disciplines find favour on ‘En Ros Rod Som Blod’ as curious field recordings of street scenes and train journeys (‘Salem I’) share space with beatific analogue synth sweep (‘En tulpan bla som blod’) and climactic spills of free improv drumming (‘Själagårdsgatan’) mingle with pneumatic torque (‘Fast’) and spaced-out, reductionist interpretations of toxic electro (‘Abiat’)
Rönnberg’s discography under what’s become his most notable and admired alias has thus far been punctuated by standout moments like these but rarely has his material felt this emphatic, complete and loaded with dramatic resonance. There’s a vastness and a sparsity, a hypnotic understatement and a fierce minimalism that gives this a vividly atmospheric power that treads beyond the usual intersection between artful sound design and visceral, oblique club music.
Inevitably, alongside the critique that surrounds his music, conversations that consider his online personality will now circulate as he convinces more converts. With his Instagram a hyper-ironic display of hustler poseur exhibitionism - all airport lounges, wads of cash, champagne, Gucci and photos of Yung Lean sipping cocktails - it’s difficult to square the impressions left by his work and the impressions left by his social media presence. For better or worse it seems little more than a bit of fun, a way of provoking the purists and it’s perhaps unsurprising that an artist whose work is concerned with such magnitude and melancholia is keen to piss around, to find some perverse comic relief from the solemn and heavy airs of his music. As for the state of his main preoccupation, ‘En Ros Rod Som Blod’ feels like a bold step, a grand fulfilment of all the abundant promise the Varg project has so far exuded.
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