Svarte Greiner






Knive is the solo debut of Erik K. Skodvin aka Svarte Greiner, released to critical acclaim on Type Records in 2006. Skodvin is one half of the Norse band Deaf Center, but you wouldn't believe this fact in regard to his solo work in which he explores much darker realms akin to Horror movies that depict deep crypts, nocturnal forests and lonesome huts whose wood is creaking due to the wind gushes … or, heaven forbid, because of spectral entities waiting for their chance to strike. The music itself is already highly fascinating with its dark drones, warbled bass strings, screeching guitars, scattered organs and glacial bells, but coupled with its pernicious track titles, it evokes portentous foreshadowings in its mild moments or horribly terrifying goosebumps at its peaks. The atmosphere is further enhanced by Kristin Evensen Giaever's vocals and her skillful performance on the violin. Dark Ambient à la Svarte Greiner is cinematic and abyssal, but not incessantly pressuring rather than subtle and doleful most of the time. There are even mellower moments found in-between the creepier sections. As Skodvin has shown on his EP Man Bird Dress of 2008 and the follow-up LP Kappe of 2009, he is not keen on delivering cheap shocks but succeeds in maintaining a gloomy atmosphere throughout each track. In short, Knive is a feast for Dark Ambient fans. A more detailed description follows in the next paragraphs.

The Boat Is My Friend offers a huge surprise at the beginning, for it isn't faded in gently and slowly, but starts with sudden guitar pulses, violin foils and overdriven quaverings. These instruments altogether create a warm atmosphere, and the lively bongo-like percussion next to finger fandangos on a misted-up window are upbeat and unusual elements. The screams of ravens and a purring cat – both reminders of Edgar Allen Poe – as well as a the soothing chants of Kristin Evensen Giaever make this tune a mild gateway into the gloomy world of Knive. Ocean Out Of Wood remains in warmer, almost care-free realms with its delicate interplay between emptiness and quiescence on the one hand and twanged guitars that are accompanied by bass pulses and various percussive devices on the other hand. Only the ubiquitously looped sound of a darkness-inheriting guitar string alters the warmly clicking track and causes a feeling of danger. But again, it's rather mellifluous, considering the things yet to come, for My Feet, Over There is getting a bit more serious due to its static noise eruptions, baneful desperado guitar strings, bit-crushed siren-like piano melodies, trembling pops and zipper-like noises. The first three tracks have so far increased the tension, so the fourth skit Easy On The Bones should further boost the gloominess, right? Yes indeed, and not just a little bit: despite its title, it is downright terrifying! Vinyl crackles and permanent rhythmically pulsating wooden-metallic noises make up the first 50 seconds of the mix, before an eye-widening darkness enters in form of a very dark guitar drone sound. It is as if someone is shoveling his own grave, only accompanied by the sinister strings of both a guitar and a violin plus the lamenting chants of a Mrs. Giaever. The spectrum of her voice is incredible! Red glitterings keep swirling around the listener later on before the song ends. An absolutely terrifying song and one of the strongest tracks Skodvin has ever delivered. It's pure evil, and the title is literally laughing in the listener's scared face. A huge composition! And it won’t be the only grave-related track on Knive, I’m afraid.

An Ordinary Hike is yet another mean-spirited track whose title doesn't fit at all. Sure, the hike is aurally depicted with the help of a field recording of steps through the bog and the cries of distant ravens, but the atmosphere is calamitous thanks to the icy synth washes in the background, the dark reverb of bells and the deep plucking of a bass guitar. Coming up next is the over nine minutes-long three-part centerpiece called The Black Dress. Hazy vinyl pops mark its beginning, and they are rather chilling due to the rhythmical pulses that are interwoven into their structure. A gorgeous guitar-organ coupling forms a rather ecclesial mood, but it is more doleful and eschatological than comforting. Accompanied by footsteps on wet ground and violin strings that are played in higher regions, the atmosphere is curiously light and tremendously heavy at the same time. The middle part of the track introduces clanging wind chimes and a claustrophobic church organ melody, while the third part consists of dark bass guitar drones and crunchy splutters. A masterful track with a clear overarching development and a foreshadowing device to Svarte Greiner's second album Kappe. While Ullsokk is a short interlude with vividly chirping birds and another churchly, boldly reverberated female canto, The Dining Table is a deliberately rustic and beat-driven tribal track whose beats are performed on the mentioned dining table. Eerie background vocals and duskily droning violin strings make this a standout track. The strong beats in unison with the background strings and vocals form a spellbinding maelstrom. Is it my imagination or are the beats threatening me? It’s their basic folksy approach, the oscillation between the punchier sleight of hand and gentler play with the fingertips on wood. The outro is called Final Sleep, and it consists yet again of a shoveling person. The implied message cannot be mistaken. The hazy drones in the background are strangely soothing. Giaever's haunting vocals add another layer of eeriness to the mix which is heart-breaking and stomach-emptying at the same time. A gargantuan last track with a sad note.

All in all,
Knive is a terrific Dark Ambient album with three distinctive particularities that are only found on Skodvin's debut. These elements could have destroyed the thick atmosphere if they had been realized half-heartedly. However, this is not the case. For one, Skodvin's solo debut is very fragile, relying on various clicks, hisses and splutters coming from field recordings and natural materials such as wooden tables and similar commonplace items. In moments like the ones depicted on An Ordinary Hike, the omnipresent nature takes over and surrounds the listener in a bold, clear-cut way. The importance of these devices is still strongly perceptible in his second album Kappe, but exchanged to predominantly metallic clangs and gushes of wind. Secondly, there is a strong source of thermal heat on Knive. Instead of scaring the listener with shedloads of obscure and terrifying noises, Skodvin's warm guitar strings and melancholic melodies are the perfect counterparts, allowing the listener to calm down, but also alienating him or her with these short washes of warmth and tranquility. I believe this is part of Skodvin's concept, but as it happens with every subjective perspective, I could be entirely wrong. Thirdly, the percussion plays an important role as well, making it clear that this is no simple drone offering. Kappe isn’t either, and yet you don’t find these eclectic-rustic beats on there. Knive is a splendid album in any case whose darkness doesn't derive from multilayered synth strings but from the careful buildup of filtered guitar strings and swirling eclectic noise fragments. Since Skodvin founded this particular Ambient style – or rather perfected it –, it is a must-have for Ambient listeners who like their spine to be tingled. There's enough bubbly-saccharine Ambient music out there, so I'm always intrigued by the genre's dusky side. Svarte Greiner delivers, and continues to do so with all of his other releases.



Further reading:

Follow Svarte Greiner on Twitter: @_knive.




Ambient Review 082: Svarte Greiner – Knive (2006). Originally published on Jun. 13, 2012 at