The New Alchemy - "Organic Universe"
(iDEAL Recordings 2006, iDEAL032)
From Aural Innovations #35 (January 2007)
The New Alchemy is the one-man project of artist/musician Per Svensson from Gothenburg, Sweden, and ‘Organic Universe’ is his second CD release. However, he also performs on stage under the same band name with as many as five other local musicians. On the album, Svensson primarily plays guitar and sings, though there is occasionally some simple percussion backing and a host of effects, noises, samples and such, added in for creating certain moods when appropriate. The guitar lines are often of a fuzz-drone nature, with the occasional psychedelic lead jam in the longer tracks. Svensson sings with a sonorous semi-monotone voice not unlike Lou Reed, and is recorded in a way that makes the vocals especially muffled and indistinct in places. Whether intentional or not, the result is highly effective in conjunction with the rather sparse musical track.
‘Organic Universe’ features a whopping 22 tracks totalling 70-some minutes, mostly in the two-to-four minute range, but with a couple extended numbers of seven minutes. Some are not much more than simple musical statements. “Ghosts & Lost Lives” is a downtrodden dirge-like number, dissonance from the guitars, a simple bass drum for rhythm, and distant chanted vocals. The following track, “Mix & Deliver (Spiritual Gold),” is even more eerie and disturbing, a buzzing guitar drone countered by piercing high notes and washed-out background noises. Along with a similar track later in the album, “Black Hole (We Are Stardust),” I am reminded of the Frankfurt (Germany) duo of Joachim Gaertner and Martin Brauner, who perform similar quasi-industrial psychedelia under the name S/T. Despite the occasional similarity with darker post-rock outfits like godspeed you black emperor! and family, nobody else I’ve heard sounds quite like this album, taken overall.
“The Light of the Sun” is the rare track that is underlain by a light, pleasant melody, and as such is a nice change of pace mid-album, though Svensson’s melancholy voice and the fuzz-guitar lead lines nevertheless give the track a peculiar feel. The final sentiment (“A Billion Ears from Now”) on the album is, contrary to the musical style, and uplifting one. “A billion ears from now, out in the universe, we will be free from the curse. Down on the Milky Way, we will walk on a ray of love, under the wave of hate…together.”
‘Organic Universe’ is quite an intriguing album, and depending on your mood going in, can be a highly rewarding experience. Personally, I am one that often gets beaten down by the noisy, high-octane (and inane) pop culture of America, and this album provides a great escape from all that nonsense. It’s like an instant rainy day. The extensive CD booklet provided is full of iconic mythical imagery; the Ouroborous, signs of the zodiac, etc., always in black and white and shades of grey. All of this symbolism and lack of color seems to match the music perfectly, but then oddly the booklet centerfold depicts a lush green fern forest. Well, the album title is in fact ‘Organic Universe,’ so perhaps that would make some sense, but really, this album is nothing but disturbing dissonance and melancholy moods. But as I said, the works are artistically crafted, so these dark, moody ditties are oddly appealing.
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Reviewed by Keith Henderson