Örnatorpet – Evigt Fr​ä​mmande, Evigt Fj​ä​rran Review

Dungeon synth. ‘That might be a nice palate cleanser. That might be something chilled and easy to listen to.’ So thought I when I read the promo. This is somehow the seventh album from Swedish dungeon synth/ambient project Örnatorpet. Even after reading Dear Hollow‘s not especially glowing review of their previous, I maintained a grain of optimism, because how bad could it really be? Then I listened, and that optimism dissipated faster than the excessive number of sweeteners1 I put in the excessive number of cups of tea I ended up making whilst trying to get through Evigt Fr​ä​mmande, Evigt Fj​ä​rran. At only thirty-seven minutes long, it’s dwarfed by the Dødheimsgard and Fires in the Distance records I’ve recently covered. Yet it feels as though I could have listened to both, back-to-back, in the time it took me to get through one listen of this objectively shorter album.

As someone who thoroughly enjoys atmo-black, blackgaze, and funeral doom—none of which are known for their immediacy—and appreciates dungeon synth, take it from me: Evigt Frä​mmande, Evigt Fj​ä​rran is boring. There is a vast swath of distance between creating an atmosphere and creating music so tentative and vague it stops being background noise and actively becomes grating. Ambient music is not designed for drama but should be evocative in its ambience to weave a strong mood. To this end, Evigt… only partially succeeds. At its best moments, the record does channel appropriately nostalgic, dreamy moods that are subtly mournful and quite pleasant (“Världsalltets stränder blinka,” title track). But these moments are spread too thinly and watered down through repetition. The main problem is the lack of evolution, running in tandem with a scarcity of strong melodies and a tendency to underplay the layers that could construct feeling, whilst overplaying undeveloped refrains.

Örnatorpet‘s musical style remains much the same, with a little more emphasis on floaty, ethereality than before. From this sensibility come both the strongest and weakest aspects of the album. Warbling, mournful horn (“Midnattens Mara är över oss fallen,”) and floating melodies and chimes (“Fientliga stjärnor stiga,” “Människornas hav,” “Världsalltets….,” title track) channel quiet yearning. Delicate keys and chime whooshes are wistful, if a little new-age-crystal-healing-shop-core (“Lyss till den röst som sjunger”). This is true until they drag on beyond reasonability, perhaps most frustratingly on the closing, title track, which is the best-constructed, most medievally evocative, and beautiful of the lot, its central theme losing its power as its layers of surging, and chiming synths fail to expand. Even though its melodies grow tired, they are nonetheless, pretty. At least, that is, until they aren’t.

Underpinning most of the music’s dreaminess is a non-committal flimsiness that on the one hand saps the power and atmosphere, but on the other lends a weird intensity to precisely the wrong elements. Opener “På jordrygg ett slott är rest,” is placid and dull, with a tune that feels underdeveloped—a problem repeated later (“Midnattens…,” “Den nya tiden blickar ned på jorden”). But the following track “Likt ett rött sken ur fjärran” lurches from the former’s dungeon synth into creepy electronic dissonance, the warped notes prominent and grating in their fickleness. In a similar fashion, the comparative lack of real presence forces the listener (if not to tune out entirely) to hone in on any layers and melodies there are. The omnipresent, reverb-soaked spoken word that floats awkwardly around makes it hard to focus on either, the mix fluctuating between favoring one or the other. While the placidity of the music works for this approach sometimes (“Lyss…,” “Fientliga…”), at other times, an otherwise fine melody, already fading with repetition, is marred by the rising and fading speech that fights for position.

Not all music needs to grip you, and especially not self-described ambient music. But there are aspects of Evigt… that do, if only briefly. The subtle evocations of “Midnattens…” and the title track show a proficiency for atmospheric narration. This is what makes the record frustrating. With a stronger lean into the weaving of layers and melancholic melodies, perhaps album number eight will realize this promise. I won’t hold my breath though.

Rating: Disappointing
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Nordvis Produktion
Website: ornatorpet.bandcamp.com
Releases Worldwide: May 5th, 2023

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  1. I know, I have a problem
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