Saturday, January 26, 2013

Stafrænn Hákon - Prammi [Sound In Silence]

The first label to approach this year since my intentions of increasing the posts on Audio Gourmet for 2013 is Sound In Silence. They kindly send over their two latest releases for review, by Stafrænn Hákon and J.R Alexander.

So first up, I present my thoughts about the latest Stafrænn Hákon album 'Prammi', which has already been reissued due to popular demand. Stafrænn Hákon is the pseudonym for Icelandic artist Olafur Josephsson, the work of whom I have been following for a few years now. For those new to his sound, you'd be forgiven for thinking he'd fall into a similar category as the likes of Olafur Arnalds and Johann Johannsson, since Iceland is renowned for producing quality modern classical music. However, Josephsson is perhaps most known for his post-rock sound, active since the late nineties.

Before I began to listen, I took a glance at the tracklist and noticed something familiar - the inclusion of a piece named 'Hvarf 12' and having listened, it seems to be a 2012 adaptation of a track included on Stafrænn Hákon's 'Í Ástandi Rjúpunnar' album.
Josephsson's more recent material has been increasingly veering to a purer rock sound, with the additions of upbeat drums and guitar patterns and vocals. Whereas his earlier works were perhaps more subdued instrumental post-rock. Where 'Prammi' is particularly effective is that it draws on this artist's years of experience and through all of the different sounds in his albums. It is evenly spaced using the careful placing of these different styles through each track.

Prammi opens out with what you might describe as the classic Stafrænn Hákon sound before moving towards his more recent work in the second track 'Klump', which hints at the work of Boduf Songs, which is never a bad thing! On from this, we here the re-interpretation of Hvarf which then moves onto something new to broaden the album's palette...a piece of pure droning texture.
Whilst 'A Personal Voyage To Meat Planet' is oddly titled, it does offer respite from the pleasant, largely upbeat post-rock sound that preceded. Not only this, its minimalism offers a pause in which anticipation for the rest of the album heightens. I gather that fans of pop and rock genres would skip the drone pieces but in doing this, we rid the album of its most effective part.
When I used to DJ, I would often play a couple of tracks that were largely percussion, stripped back and minimal. I would then follow this with something melodic and with a lot of atmosphere, with the impact heightened by the few minutes of minimalism that went before it.

Sure enough, the melodic post-rock returns and with impact. This is then followed by another short interlude of textured ambience aptly titled 'Passage'. I can't help thinking here, that perhaps it would be more effective to swap this with the following track 'Hoff', which would space the tracks and their differing sounds apart a little. That said, this point is of such little bearing on the overall effect of Prammi and who am I to question Josephsson's ideas. Prammi continues along with the effective formula of post-rock, both instrumental and vocal interspersed with short drones to great effect.
By the time we hit tenth track 'Lusher', a more laid-back and vibe sets in, followed by the fractured music box tones of 'Before'. For me, the album is at its most beautiful in its final quarter which is rounded off with 'Wait', the album's darkest piece. Again, its placing is apt - it makes sense to include this as the last track; a final reflective moment as this remarkable album draws to a close.

Physical copies are still available at the time of writing, hand-made and hand-numbered by this excellent emerging label. Their current roster of artists is more than enough to make their Bandcamp page a regular haunt amongst fans of quality experimental music.
I've been a long-term fan so I feel qualified to issue this bold statement: Stafrænn Hákon's 'Prammi' is perhaps his most accomplished body of work to date and rewards a listener that gives it the time to play out in full. The way that Olafur Josephsson positions the tracks whether upbeat, laid-back, instrumental, vocal or glacial is what sets everything off here. He has shown great restrain in creating this album, which will shine whatever the weather. Highly recommended {LISTEN / BUY}

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