Walking alone this evening in an isolated spot in Texan hill country, dusk falling, a deer flashes across my path and halts a few yards away, quivering. I stop and we trade stares for a while, my stillness not quite assuaging her agitation. A bat passes erratically. A sudden movement behind me catches the corner of my eye, and I turn just as a fawn, perhaps a foot and a half high, almost stumbles into my legs. It looks up at me for a long, fragile moment, and bolts away. The moon grows brighter in a vast sky as the last light fades, the gathering night filled with air and glow and darting life and tensile peace. As I walk on I’m listening to Solstøv by Pjusk, an album not from Texas but from Norway, yet evocatively descriptive of such a night as this, a night of peace and vastness and life and surprise and glory. This walk and this music will now live together in my memory.
Where Tele, the last full Pjusk release was filled with geological references, tectonic groans and subterranean rumblings, Solstøv (“sun dust”) continues to explore the airier landscape of the recent collaboration with Sleep Orchestra (who is present on one track). Also still present from that collaboration is the addition of Kåre Nymark Jr.’s expressive trumpet – the album opens with a controlled yet expansive trumpet note like a primal call to worship, and the trumpet remains pervasive throughout.
The track titles – glimpse, faded, dawn, bewitching, veil, glow – evoke a liminal world of fleeting and mysterious beauty, a world of imperceptible transitions and spaciously flowing time. The music matches the titles perfectly. Filled with immediately recognizable Pjusk hallmarks – the restrained, pulsating traces of rhythm that subtly come and go as small stories woven into a larger whole, the taut sense of restraint and mystery, the dark textures and moody expanses – Solstøv also opens up new avenues, something of a departure but in familiar accents. Droning washes of sound (processed trumpet, though not identifiable as such) set a backdrop of vast stillness; never lapsing into swirly gauze, they set a tone of austerity and respect for the brooding presence of light and earth and sky. Clicks and rustles, growing from slight speckles to scurrying clusters of movement, work against the stillness to convey a continuous sense of activity. The universe may be vast and still, but the droplets and molecules, the gusts and breezes, the myriad small unseen creatures fill it with movement, an undramatic yet constantly weaving motion absorbed within itself somewhere just out of sight. And then there is the foreground trumpet, recognizable now, not melodies but single sighs and moans and cries, now calling up into the air, now twisting in sharp or forlorn lament, now crooning resignedly on the breeze. As well as adding another quite beautiful layer of texture, the trumpet adds a voice to the skies, a human breath/spirit expressing wordless prayers into the dusk/dawn. Occasional samples of speech just beyond the threshold of intelligibility add to the sense of human presence amid something both larger and smaller, the cosmic backdrop of creation and its granular details humbling yet also framing the human voice.
Pjusk have been prolific this year. When a new release from them appears I find myself caught up in hopeful expectation that the compelling depth of their music will captivate me for another chapter. Few other artists capture the same sense of patient mystery, of music as the textured echo of creation, indwelt but not grasped and mastered. In Solstøv (12k) the hope is once again met with care and craftsmanship. I recommend the album for careful, slow listening, especially at night, alone, on the hills as the light fades and the moon takes to the sky and the fawn goes darting into the dark.
David Smith currently lives in the Midwestern United States, where he teaches, writes, and enjoys a very wide range of music, with regard to which he claims no expertise whatsoever beyond that of a dedicated and appreciative listener.
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