A new Pjusk album finally hits the shelf. What seems like a bad pun depicts exactly the mood and the setting of Tele, a Norse term for describing underground water that is frozen. While their former works Sart and Sval of 2007 and 2010 respectively were dark and gloomy, the duo of Jostein Dahl Gjelsvik and Rune Andre Sagevik present a totally different approach on their third album by oscillating between the much-loved dark territory the band is known for, and unexpectedly glittering and bright inclusions without the risk of delivering an end product that is too mellow or joyful. Tele is released on the record label Glacial Movements, and it is a befitting surrounding for the frostiest album the duo has ever released. Almost all the time there is something popping, clicking and crackling, evoking the atmosphere of an organic landscape that is traversed by different kinds of ice, snow and rocks. The composition of what is usually simply called stone is another key element of the album. Several tracks concentrate on audio representations of schists, flints and granites, and the band surprises the connoisseur of their work many times. Without further ado, here‘s a deep analysis of Tele‘s 9 tracks.


As if the Tele was a reaction to the crestfallen heaviness of their previous album Sval, the opening track Fnugg begins with thaw. Foggy background synths, eerie sirens and the incessant sound of droplets and crackles display a kind of fragility that I did not associate with the band before. And as this short opener shows, the duo parries this train of thought by slowly modulating the strings and moving them into darker, machine-like territory. When Fnugg reaches its end, the formerly foggy strings have become densely quavering drones, thus exemplifying Tele‘s overarching confrontation of various fragile and murky elements in less than 2 minutes. Gneis is next and fades right into Fnugg, absorbing the drones for most of its time. I don‘t know whether I should put a spoiler warning into this review, because what happens right after 8 seconds can only be described as a medulla-emptying, blood-curdling and hair-raising blast – a tremendously forceful and abyssal drone sound cuts through the quiescence, and while it is remarkably similar to a low-pitched ship horn, there‘s a frightening element that falsifies this hypothesis, namely a shorter second note right after the sustained monotony. "It's just music," I'm telling myself, and yet this über-dark drone is terribly harrowing, a blissful disturbance! Howling wind noises in the distance, oscillating haze plus vault-like reverberations are ubiquitous companions in the first part of the track, while the second part introduces the sternly gleaming incisiveness of thonging synth pads, shifting the mood almost to cherubic timbres. Soon enough, however, the atmosphere reaches the freezing point yet again with muffled rattles, blurry clangs and sounds of waterfalls. During the end, a glowing but cold synth string illuminates the fog and fades out slowly, marking the end of Gneis. This is an absolutely gorgeous track, and when I‘m writing about a foggy atmosphere, it is not the kind of fog that peacefully damps everything in it. No, on this track, there‘s something going on all the time, little crackles, frizzles and echoey clangs, making this a towering example of an Ambient track that doesn‘t rely solely on the thickness of synths, but the surroundings as well. And Gneis is yet another track that displays the counterpoint nature of this album by presenting an intermingling of fragile crackles and monolithic deepness. Pjusk never sounded like this before, and this track has captured my heart by terrifying me and by giving me moments of tranquility at the same time in an icy area.


Up next is Flint, an ethereal track that slowly builds a moment with howling wind noises, dewing snow crackles, scary frizzles and trembling square lead pads. Gentle beats are added, and the glacial strings in the background are complemented by mercurial pulses and various bells. Even though the setup is serious and deep, the track also inherits a certain lightness due to the high-pitched elements and its organic pulses. Skifer follows and is a completely atypical Pjusk track with incredibly thick synth sounds as usual, but the presentation differs: a surprisingly lively and quickly-paced melody is played that is accompanied by rhythmical beats. The track is bright and – eureka! – joyful, bringing to mind snowy electro pop anthems of the Alpinestars or the heavier synth pieces of the late Kraftwerk. However, this is not meant as an insult, but is just a rather flippant remark. While the drones in Skifer are equally dark and a synth tempest is going on in the background, the brightness of the main melody defeats the darker elements. A successful, totally unexpected experiment! Krystall gives away the overall concept in its title already because crystal-like structures are easy to create with the help of synths. And indeed, the song is glaringly sparkling with sublime, monotonous background synths, a surprisingly hectical loop of glittering pulses and the addition of various hisses, some of them sputtering while others are mellow. Electric buzzes are playing in unison with constant bass pulses. This track is a tiny letdown for me, as its name invoked a more dreamy, concentrated and pompous representation. That it is rather lively and thus not as deep as I thought it to be is no flaw of the song itself, but the strange correlation between title and expectation. It is, after all, a standout track due to its brightness. If you listen to Pjusk‘s two previous albums and then turn your attention to Krystall, you won‘t believe that this track is coming from the same group. If you like only the dark sounds of Pjusk, this song won‘t probably do it for you, but since I am fond of and fascinated by even the tiniest scintilla in dark Ambient music, this song delivers an almost blinding brightness.


Granitt is the next rock stratum of Tele and is a distinctly rhythmical track with a bouncy percussion. The blithesomeness is soon accompanied by mesmerically blistering synth strings which are played in major, but are then played antithetically, in a more cacophonous way. Another element which I am fond of are the cascading bells that occur for a short moment as well as the snow-related crackles and pops which can be included thousands of times without sounding stale or boring. The percussion later wanes and makes room for computer noises and a more solemn and calmer atmosphere. The beatless Kram follows and brings back the melancholy and fogginess from the beginning of Tele. Serene synth howls, a cautious percussive loop and clichéd but attractive cave noises are played in a cavernous atmosphere. It is the last minute of this piece where the song truly shines and an unprecedented feeling of warmth and comfort is added in the form of clear-cut and sharp but polyphonous synth pads. The next song is a Pjusk song by the numbers: The rather short Bre is a terrifically mysterious and soothing beatless piece whose ambience consists of a compelling majesty that transports tranquility and sereneness with the help of slow synth strings, flittering and spectral synth fragments and galactic background synths. The last song is Polar which consists of two highly distinctive sections and is the clear brethren of my favorite Gneis, bringing back darkness and endangerment all of a sudden. The beginning, however, is delicately mysterious with powerful strings, deep bass rumbles and a gas stove-like drone sound. After the first minute, though, an incisively dark synth is introduced, reminiscent of the ship horn-like signal in Gneis. Suddenly, everything is eerily quiet and only the repeated ship horn is heard. After 3 minutes, the song shifts into its second section with glacial percussion and various bells and synth sparks. Any superstructure of darkness and fog has waned, making room for a devoutly blissful downbeat segmentation. The song almost moves into Synth Pop territory à la Depeche Mode or New Order, but without vocals or guitars. This segment features a curious juxtaposition of bright elements that evoke melancholy and reclusiveness notwithstanding.


To my surprise, Tele is as crystalline, icy and fragile as it is gusty, forceful and overawing. The constant interplay between the concepts of reposefulness and elemental forces has never been this differentiated on their albums before. Take their album Sval for instance, which is almost inconceivably gloomy, ethereal and quite heavy. The mood never strays into additional directions. On Tele, however, luminous fluxes destroy any melancholy and point their rays to the microcosmic structure of the glistening fissures and fractals of the stones, rocks and crags which are transcoded into music. These peaceful observations are then confronted with natural powers, deep bass drones and turbulent snowdrifts as in Gneis and Polar, to give two examples. I can imagine that Pjusk took quite a risk with this album, as there are always two fanbases for every band: those who want the sound to evolve by staying true to the style and formula the artist is known for, and those who want to be surprised and are embracing new directions more than the inclusion of formulae close to the hearts. Tele, as a result, is not as coherent as their previous albums. It is by no means a rollercoaster ride. The duo doesn‘t try something new and unexpected all the time. But it is crystal clear that the overarching strategy consists of the merging of clashing ingredients. I for one like the warmer sounds of the band as well as the cavernous mystique and the gorgeously intimidating bass drones. People who want the Pjusk sound they came to love should listen to the first half of the album, while the second half consists of more surprises and shifts in direction. This might be a coincidence, but I observed it this way. My absolute favorites are the aforementioned Gneis and Polar, while the warmth of Skifer and Bre are equally important runner-ups. All in all, it‘s a very strong album that truly marries the icy ruthlessness of winters in Norway with gorgeously thick synths – and, as a surprise, with sparkles and sources of warmth.




Further reading:

The Twitter accounts of the duo are @Sagevik and @Jostein




Ambient Review 040: Pjusk – Tele (2012). Originally published on Feb. 22, 2012 at AmbientExotica.com.