Erik Levander - Kondens
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Erik Levander

A couple years ago, Erik Levander went through a series of events that just about every laptop-based electronic musician has nightmares about. Halfway through the process of recording his newest album, he sustained a massive hard drive crash and had no backup of his work. With the help of donations from strangers and supporters, he found the money to take his drive to a high-end restoration lab, but even they couldn't salvage his work. And so he started over, rebuilding old tracks from mix-downs and starting others from scratch while keeping a list of everyone who donated as a private sponsor of his work.

Despite the brutally rough patches, there are some good things to come of the breakdown in technology. Most notable is the sheer kindness of strangers, who offered to help him try to salvage his work, and secondly is that Levander actually had the motivation to soldier through the gut-punching setback and actually finish his album. Kondens is that release, and the album is roughly four years in the making after all the problems. Released on the Rumraket label (which is run by Efterklang member Rasmus Stolberg), it finds the Swedish musician creating glitchy pop music that calls to mind everything from Fennesz to Manual.

Having not heard the mixes before the hard-drive crash, I have to believe that Kondens is at least partially directed by that breakdown, as a thread of digital deconstruction runs through the release. It ranges from minor (as on the quiet opening track "Sekund") to massive (the sand-blasted, orchestral blowout of "Oskärpa"), but it's certainly a major part of the release. It's such a major part that your enjoyment of the nine song, forty-five minute release may very well depend on just how much digital workouts you can stand. In places, Levander treads close to sheer noise workouts, as "Hitta Hem" opens with a flickering of quiet, fuzzy guitar before building into a skidding, ten-ton heave of distortion over seven minutes. Elsewhere, "Mänen Viskar" and "Tribut" mostly escape any glitchery as simple chamber pieces with clarinet and piano respectively.

There are definitely standout moments, with the ghostly choir during the second half of "Kvad" and the textural cloud of the aforementioned "Oskärpa" leading the way. Reconstructed from what could have been a dehabilitating setback, Kondens is a solid, if not overwhelming electronic release from this young artist who can certainly coax out some goosebumps at times.

rating: 6.510
Aaron Coleman 2008-04-17 20:51:35