Varg - Nordic Flora Series Pt. 3, Gore-Tex City
Varg (even with his reputed "Black Metal" roots should not to be confused with the German Death Metal band of the same name) is Jonas Rönnberg, Swedish producer and purveyor of fine Ambient and Techno. Perhaps you're already familiar with his vast output as Vargdöd? or The Empire Line? or Ulwhednar? or Vargrav? or Body Sculptures? or Grav? or D.Å.R.F.D.H.S.? or Född Död? or Flacid? or Black Leather Harness? (Anyone else thinking of Danny Wolfers right now?). Being this prolific you'd be right in thinking his quality control fluctuates (not surprising really, what with an excess of thirty releases in the last four years) but not much. Irrespective of the resulting style, be it soaring Ambient, tough Techno, left-field Pop dirges or haunting electronic soundscapes, Rönnberg has a knack for delivering high quality work. And, as demonstrated on Gore-Tex City, the third part of his Nordic Flora Series (part one was a four track EP called Heroine while part two was a gargantuan double album called en Ros röd som Blod) his workmanship continues to ascend.
As an avid reader of The Letter, you'll no doubt already be familiar with opening track Champagne Ceremonies? This deceptively simple format of a burgeoning melody built on a straightforward beat epitomises Rönnberg's work on Gore-Tex City. With around half the tracks cut from this same cloth, it's an undeniably pleasing pattern but Rönnberg recognises the necessity for contrast and depth and thus presents plenty to offset any sneaking cynical scrutiny. Foremost in his diversion strategy is a resourceful use of collaborators that include, among others, Drew McDowall (Coil) & Alessandro Cortini (Nine Inch Nails), Swedish songstress AnnaMelina and punk rapper Yung Lean (the latter's contribution in particular is a highlight).
Canadian artist Chloe Wise pops up twice with a dulcet monotone, her spoken words further extending the breadth of Rönnberg's range. Add in field recordings of train stations and Japanese travel announcements and we have a real international vibe — a theme endorsed further in the multilingual track titles. With all these strands combined, the autobiographical nature of the album comes to the fore, making it easy to picture the jet-setting lifestyle of the Swede; a frequent flyer, art buyer, drives fast cars, likes to stimulate his mind, anything goes because money is no object.
With chart-threatening Pop, a modern Classical piano piece, vibrant and tense Techno and both murky and blissful Ambient compositions, we have an album that is as varied as it is intoxicating. Sure, lots of ground gets covered but the whole is cohesive and addictive. It's up there as album of the year so far.
10/10 after 15 listens
Out today on Northern Electronics.