Jonson is the alter ego of Harald Karla who has released three albums so far, Mindlook being the third and most prolific one, capturing a dark and arcane atmosphere. The themes of darkness and mystery are coupled with an aquatic setting that is aurally presented with synthesizer raindrops and low bass lines in many a song. Although comparisons with Vangelis wear thin, Mindlook sounds like it was written specifically for an unreleased Blade Runner entry that takes place primarily underwater. The permanent deep drones and the echoey fizzles evoke the feeling of being trapped in a submarine. Even though these elements sound rather clichéd as they have been featured time and again in movies about submarines, vaults and aliens, a whole album without distracting pictures is a totally different and paradoxically enhancing experience. Though not all track titles refer to the wettest of all ancient elements, the whole album is bursting due to the implied water masses that are in the mix. Jonson doesn‘t realize them with field recordings or synthesizer bubbles, but with whirling soundcarpets and deep rumbles that evoke the feelings of loneliness and amplify the raw power of the prevalent pressure underwater.


Fishsoup breathes and exemplifies the spirits which I have described heretofore: Deeply trembling bass lines, a submerged atmosphere and the hollow surroundings of a submarine mark the cinematic beginning. A beautiful piano melody is played, and though it is clear cut, it remains fragile and weak as the permanently heavy rumbles and incisive brake noises cause a richly textured, but lonely mood, as if the listener were swallowed by the ocean. Shine features eerie bass pulses and a distant blizzard. Synth vibes, reverberated strings and cold electronic howls create a feeling of calmness at first, but the tension rises with the addition of a short but pressing 4-note loop that is played along the other textures. Both tracks so far are really dark and intimidating. This doesn‘t change at all when Electro Rain begins with its rhythmical staccato of muffled rain drops and slow strings in the background. Sizzles wash over the listener and the permanent rumbles add deepness to a song which is otherwise illuminated with brighter elements, without being playful, naturally. From Here To Here, however, changes the formula for the first time by introducing a soothing coldness that is realized with synth strings, angelic synth pads and the omission of overly deep basslines or intensifying sibilance. Foretime is an ethereal Ambient tune similar to Thom Brennan‘s Vibrant Water album with a despaired mood, sublime synth pads and cold upswells and downfalls of synth strings. This song is rich in sound and doesn‘t leave room for empty spaces; every second is filled with ample synths, further broadening the range of style on Mindlook without causing a break in style.


Septembers Winter is a surprisingly cozy result, with frosty synth strings that are transporting an unheard tranquility. Additional pulsating synth pads and deep bass lines make this a very strong track that is reduced and spacious, but swells for a few times. Especially the mentioned bass lines truly shine at the end, when they interplay with echoey sizzles. Sleep features cherubic synth hooks in the background while howling synth of glacial proportions are played in the foreground. This is another song that leaves spaces and allows the sounds to linger. This is relaxing Ambient music, sure, but there is always a certain coldness and feeling of isolation attached to it. The album closes with an interesting couple: From The Outside Part One and Part Two build a 16+ minute piece that features a superstructure of all the ingredients that were heard before and is thus oscillating between the different moods and spacious surroundings. Part One starts with incredibly trembling bass lines and spectral but mellow synth sirens. Gentle frizzles are added and Jonson accelerates the submerged mood that was featured in the first 3 tracks. Wind noises, bass lines, sizzles and quiet synth strings are the elements which allow for a cinematic quality. Part Two is the over 10 minutes long closing track and stretches the aforementioned bits and ingredients over a longer timespan. However, Part Two really shines by stringing different spaces, moods and vignettes together. The atmosphere always shifts and the listener can clearly separate each section from the other. Why Jonson didn‘t make three or four shorter tracks out of Part Two remains a mystery to me, as each song was heretofore dedicated to exactly one setting or feeling, but this is a minor complaint about a strong closer of a terrifically peaceful but cold underwater album with ubiquitous splutters and an attractive deepness.


Mindlook is a successful album that presents a lot of clichéd devices, but since intense albums like this are rare, there is no need to criticize this approach. It is a dark album with only 1 or 2 brighter spots and a few ethereal numbers with thick synth washes. But otherwise, dark trembling bass pulses and fragile, eerie strings are the main ingredients. This third and at time of writing last album by Jonson is his most dedicated and coherent. For fans of darker Ambient soundscapes in the veins of Pjusk, Svarte Greiner, Thom Brennan and for those who prefer a hopeless, at times frightening setting over friendlier, mellower kitsch, Mindlook delivers big time.




Ambient Review 034: Jonson – Mindlook (2008). Originally published on Feb. 8, 2012 at