New York-based painter and musician Tor Lundvall has been releasing haunting ambient music for the past 10 years or so, both with Tony Wakeford of Sol Invictus, and as a solo artist. Last year, debuted his first album of more song-based work with vocals, entitled Last Light, but with Empty City he's moving back into the largely instrumental realm again, and the creepy album title is appropriately apt for the ghostly disc.
Although it may seem like it on first listen if you're not paying attention, Empty City still makes use of vocals, but they're all very subtle, with wordless phrases and even slightly guttural howls creeping around the edge of the music like specters drifting through abandoned structures. With song titles that are just as suggestive as the album title, it's not hard to conjure up such images when listening to the release.
"Scrap Yard" opens the disc as pulsing notes ring out over low tones and a sparse, muted beat as breathy vocals whisper words that you can't quite make out. "Platform #3" is even more sparse as warm pads reverberate heavily over droning notes and single syllable phrases push through the fog. At barely over two minutes, "Night Work" is the shortest track on the release, but somehow manages to build a strong feeling of dread before breathing with deep heaves of sound that again sound like filtered vocals.
Part of the beauty of Empty City is that it's so efficient. Twelve tracks run just under forty minutes, and while different elements are repeated (mainly the simple percussion, which is often comprised of one or two elements that drift in and out of the mix), the album always feels like it's moving forward, as it shifts from slightly more percussive to completely atmospheric and back again. Towards the end of the release, the murky haze even lifts slightly, including the almost happy "la-la" vocal element in the middle of the album-titled track "Empty City" or on the Eno-esque closer of 'Clearing Sky." Described as "ghost ambient" by the label (or perhaps by Lundvall himself), his music reminds me of everyone from the work of Labradford to the aforementioned Eno. It's a great album to get lost in for awhile.