Spotlight on Dronarivm: Pjusk / Sleep Orchestra/ Sima Kim / Tobias Hellkvist / Porya Hatami

Here is a look at the most recent releases on the Dronarivm label, an independent label from Moscow focused on contemporary ambient and modern classical music.  The quality of the music is uncompromising and there is great attention to detail and craftsmanship from the album packages to the presentation of the site.  

Pjusk / Sleep Orchestra – Drowning in the Sky [DR-21]

Drowning in the Sky brings together the creative forces of Norwegian duo Pjusk (Rune Sagevik and Jostein Dahl Gjelsvik) and UK artist Sleep Orchestra (Christopher Pegg).  Seeds of their partnership sown when they met at the Storung Festival in Barcelona came to fruition when this record was released in March by Dronarivm.  The footprints in the snow disappearing into a grey horizon on the album cover serves as an apt metaphor for the frigid trek on which the album is going take those who listen to it.  Their respective styles are highly complementary, especially as co-pilots across such a frozen vista. Pjusk brings their repertoire of starkly textured, deeply evocative sounds “inspired by the harsh Norwegian weather and wild landscape” and Sleep Orchestra brings his muted soundscapes which inhabit the fringes of conscious awareness.

The opening tracks, ‘Donitsk’ and ‘Daithn’ are especially absorbing and perhaps the most accessible for general listening.  ‘Skdiv’ is quite stunning with funereal swells of palpable melancholy engaged in a call and response with the trumpet bursts of guest musician Kåre Nymark jr manipulated by Taylor Deupree (using the Kyma sound design system, a combination explored more expansively on the recent Pjusk album Solstøv). Tracks like ‘Aoleeingal’, ‘Rionzemef’, and ‘Vansunbarth’ plunge deeper into the wintry void, being more musically austere and much more focused on mood & texture then melody. The album closes with contrasting two remixes.  Pleq adds a bit of welcome warmth to his interpretation of ‘Rionzemef’ with a pulsing undercurrent of ambient percussion under the violin of Tomasz Mreńca, and Christopher Bissonnette turns in a rather foreboding, slightly unsettling, rendering of ‘Skdiv’.

Much of Drowning in the Sky feels bleak and desolate, yet there is also a reassuring sense of stillness and an intoxicating beauty in it that cannot be denied.  The sonic craftsmanship is especially impressive and the album will reward thoughtful listening with a quality pair of headphones or premium sound system.  Highly recommended, but you may want to dress warmly before queuing it up for a listen.

About Pjusk:

About Sleep Orchestra:

Release information:


Sima Kim – Freudvoll und Leidvoll [DR-22]

Sima Kim is a musician and composer born in South Korea and who grew up in Europe with a keen interest in western classical and contemporary music.  His new release on the Dronarvim label is a simple, but thoughtful & elegant two track EP called Freudvoll und Leidvoll.  The reference to the poem from the third act of Goethe’s Egmont is intentionally direct.

Freudvoll und leidvoll, gedankenvoll sein;
Langen und bangen in schwebender Pein;
Himmelhoch jauchzend, zum Tode betrübt;
Glücklich allein ist die Seele, die liebt.

In joy and in sorrow, be thoughtful;
Long and fearful in suspended pain;
Rejoicing to heaven, grieving to death;
Blessed alone is the soul that loves.

One piece here is dedicated to freduvoll (joy) and one to leidvoll (sorrow).  In fact, both have an air of wistfulness about them, but ‘Freudvoll’ is painted in brighter hues and has a more animated and shimmering feel to it when compared with the grayer and more muted ‘Leidvoll’.  Both tracks are ambient drones created by tape loops, but they still reflect the other source of inspiration credited for the album, classical music. That association can be sensed, but only distantly and abstractly, as if the echoes of that centuries old music is locked into infinitely decaying repetitive loops that reaches our ears like the light from distant stars.

Though it contains barely 20 minutes of music, Freudvoll und Leidvoll  gets premium treatment in its physical packaging.  It comes as a 3”CDr in cardboard handmade box includes original small 6-pages photobook and dried flowers, limited of 75 handnumbered copies.  All in all it is quite a tidy and appealing package and one that fans of ambient drone will especially appreciate.

About Sima Kim:

Release information:


Tobias Hellkvist – Cay [DR-23]

Tobias Hellkvist is a Swedish composer and artist, working mainly in the field of ambient, drone and electroacoustic music.  His Dronarivm release, called Cay is a single long form piece, an 18 minute excursion that immerses the listener in a soundscape so vivid it really is transportive. About the piece, Hellkvist says:

“From the very beginning, ‘Cay’ was just a project which got stuck, gathering dust in a folder hidden somewhere on my laptop for a long time. After returning to work on it from time to time, actually for about 3 years, I still wasn’t entirely pleased and had trouble deciding on which direction I wanted it to go. But after experimenting with some new gear that I bought for my studio, the pieces started to fall into place and the track was gradually coming together.”

A deep undercurrent of drone unites the various sections, the first of which immerses the listener in deep, wondrous waters teeming with life.  In the second section, it feels as if we are first rising, and then racing, to the surface to burst into a blaze of sun and a state of heightened awareness as Hellkivst builds an intense “wall of sound” layer by layer.  In the final section, the intensity recedes into an ebbing drone which rises again, skyward this time, into a shimmering paean replete with choral voices and a organ like tones.

Cay is quite a stunning piece that truly earns the designation of soundscape.  It is an immersive world of it’s own creation.  By the end, the listener feels like a journey to a wondrous place really has been taken.  This release also comes as a 3” CDr with a highly suitable artistic motif and premium packaging, a cardboard handmade box includes original inserts (images + separated shadows on the transparent film) and small stones of different colours.

About Tobias Hellkvist:

Release information:

Porya Hatami – The Garden [upcoming]

The next release due out by Dronarivm will be one by Porya Hatami on August 8, a delightful surprise as he has already put out two excellent albums this year, another solo effort called Shallow and a collaboration with Lee Anthony Norris (Nacht Plank, Moss Garden, Metamatics) called The Longing Daylight both of which I have raved about in previous reviews.  The new record, called The Garden, is essentially an ambient concept album:

“The soundscape of The Garden forms from whispers and murmurs of rural nature, from that noiseless noise which lives in the summer air that are captured in a macro mode, so one can almost touch…Like a sluggish snail, the music ploughs its way through blades of grass, like a humming bee, it glides smoothly down to a flower, and like a firefly, it shimmers at cool evening twilight.”

The album is comprised of seven pieces, the protagonist of each being a different creature that lives among the loam and flora of this sylvan world. We have the Firefly, the Spider, the Snail, the Ladybug, the Bee, and the Ant.  The listener cohabits the environment of each of this creatures as Hatami enables us to hear the flutter of their wings, the rustling of their webs,  droplets of rain falling on the leaves, or the brushing of their cilium against the honeycomb.  Soft drones, chimes, scratches, gentle rain fall, and a plethora of other sounds and textures all work together to create a self-contained macro universe through sound and music. This is all done with patient artistry and exquisite attention to detail so as to capture the quintessence of stillness and tranquility.

The arrival of this album will make 2014 quite a prolific year for Porya and hopefully one in which a wider audience will get a chance to experience his organic and thoughtful approach to ambient music as well as his patient and detailed sound craft.  The album’s concept is perfectly suited to his environmentally focused blend of acoustic and electronic ambient elements and is packaged in a stunning artistic motif. For those who enjoy an organic and minimalist approach to ambient, I would give The Garden the highest of recommendations.

The Garden will be available in MP3/FLAC, and two limited runs on CD – 150 regular and 50 special editions which will include a lavender flower, 6 photo inserts (12×12 cm) on matte paper (200 gr.) that go in a tea and grass handmade colored envelope sewn up in hessian bag.

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