Elrox Ambient Session "Tralfamadore" CDr
I remember well that day, November 10th, 2015, when two orders from Norway from two unknown projects arrived into my mailbox and graced my collection. Both absolutely new to me, now few months later, I can confirm they safely landed on my personal list of "Best revelations of 2015"!!! Some weeks ago I already focused on Super Fata's "Structural Tendency", now it's time to dive deeply into the soundworlds of Elrox, a solo project of Tom Ståle Engebretsen, who is based in Nesoddtangen. Known as a crafted photographer, journalist, writer and active supporter of local electronic scene, he is the good guy behind "NSDN - elektronika nesodden" 2CD compilation from the end of 2012 displaying local talents within varied styles of electronic based sounds such as ambient, Berlin school, downtempo, glitch and many more. A quite ambitious release, which by the way included also a 16-page newspaper presenting, introducing, interviewing and picturing each participating artist/band on this double CD. Although written solely in Norwegian, I definitely treasure this item for its very unique approach. How many times you have a chance reading or at least browsing through such newspaper? Well-done, Tom and all recording artists!!! But, let's move now back to Elrox. His debut "Colour Of The Past" was released two years ago on digital and physical formats, while "Lucent Echoes" followed few months later as digital download. Both these albums mostly cover more melodious soundsculpting like chillout, downtempo, Berlin school, pop/rock..., but with most recent releases under Elrox Ambient Session epithet, "Iceberg" and "Tralfamadore", Tom Ståle Engebretsen moves into more distinctively flavored minimal soundscaping. Spotlighting on "Tralfamadore", this newest album by Elrox is out since August 20th, 2015, as a digital download, but also as a pro CDr and cassette, announcing the birth of Tom's own label Tape The Sound. The 4-panel digipak comes with stunningly marvelous paintings by Freddy Holm and even if this is not a glass mastered product, the CDr edition looks really impressive!!! Kudos to Tom Ståle Engebretsen & Freddy Holm!!!
Based on Kurt Vonnegut's novel "Slaughterhouse 5", around the part when the main protagonist, Billy Pilgrim, is during the World War II kidnapped by extraterrestrials and taken to their home planet called Tralfamadore, the album opens with 5 and a half minutes long piece entitled after its leading character, "Billy Pilgrim". The listener immediately dives into an uniquely sparse aural zones, where contemplative tinkles and outbursting sonics are counterpointed with helically enigmatic reverberations. Remote piano motif sneaks in as well along with intangibly ephemeral cybernetic rumbles, while glimpses of eternal stillness continuously permeate across. Wow!!! Wearing a pair of quality headphones is an ultimate must-have here!!! The sound quality is just amazing and attentive ears are persistently rewarded with many distinguishably auralscaping delights!!! Only few seconds longer "4th Dimension", as Tralfamadorians are able to see in four dimensions, keeps on weirdly colored paths, where sudden oscillations are merged with hissy subtleties, ear-tickling fragments, buoyant patterns and cyber-tech bleeps. Phantasmal howls are enduringly hanging above. The next piece, "The Flying Saucer", precisely bridges gently metallic clinks, magnificently laid-back, with intricately nuanced drone spirals, cinematic cascades and introspective clatters. Clocking to nearly 5-minute mark, this is another absolutely enrapturing listening experience!!! Bravo, Elrox!!! "Tralfamadore Zoo", slips into more experimental, cacophonously colored terrains, no wonder due to its title. An array of high-pitched cyber-biotic chimes is hauntingly equalized with emerging mellow blankets. Bizarrely effective!!! "The Earthlings Dome" is invaded by desolate drifts, while translucent scraps and rattles swirl across the ears, razor sharp cybernetic traceries relentlessly titilate the synapses and relaxed downtempos paint spellbindingly fascinating sceneries. A true sonic elixir and another pinnacle of the album!!! "So It Goes" is maybe the most expansive soundscape on this journey so far, even if rather minimal with additional diaphanously transient traceries. Whistling vestiges amalgamate with undulating panoramic drifts, which awake, rise, climax and fade away, while isochronal cello-like weeps emanate and steal the center stage. Weirdly gorgeous piece!!! "Cyanid Atmosphere", with 7:40 the longest track on "Tralfamadore", continues on mysteriously scented path, when melting barren panoptic, yet lissomly sinuous drone, pensively meager sequences, sonorously ringing transitoriness and eerie groans surreptitiously exhaling from enveloping stillness. A rather scattered soundforging, but still a truly transcendental escapade awaits here!!! The title composition "Tralfamadore" effectively commingles mesmerizingly spiraling meridians with incisively stringed expressions and insistently swinging and swelling shatters. A quite eccentric piece driving me almost nuts with its perpetually hypnotizing circlets. The closing track "Montana Wildhack" is named after a nubile young actress, who is also kidnapped by the Tralfamadorians and becomes Billy Pilgrim's mate in their zoo. This piece safely maintains the unique approach of its creator with precisely detailed and richly entertaining fragmented texture with many swirling embellishments and catchy melody thrown in. Enthralling, cinematic, blazing, immersing...
It's absolutely evident here, Tom Ståle Engebretsen is equipped not only with a truly virtuosic musicianship, but also with a glowing sonic vision, because "Tralfamadore" is undoubtedly a really spectacular piece of art meticulously transforming fiction into a fantastic 51-minute aural story!!! This guy is playing his own league, that's for sure, since with his newest album he achieves a devastatingly peculiar progress and advancement when comparing to his debut work. Elrox's own unique, extraordinarily immersing signatures are all over this brilliant recording, bravo, Tom Ståle Engebretsen!!! And another bonus on "Tralfamadore", as already mentioned, is the audiophile sound quality, credit for exquisite mastering goes to Tore Stabell Kulø, who also acts together with Elrox as a mixing engineer and producer. And if you are an aficionado of vintage cassette format, don't miss "Tralfamadore", I don't own the cassette, but according to the pictures, they look really cool too!!! By the way, the artist himself said once, he must be the oldest music debutant in the world... Tom turned 50 last September. But why not, there is always a time to fulfill your dreams. You did it and you have my deep respect, Tom!!! Keep on creating and live your dream!!! I will always keep a focused ear to the ground!!!
Richard Gürtler (Jan 24, 2016, Bratislava, Slovakia)