Tar Ner Skylten
Henrikk Björkk has done a little bit of everything in the world of industrial music, from fronting cult EBM act Pouppée Fabrikk, exploring the intersection of noise and rhythm in the influential Mz.412 to cinematic dark ambient and various points between in his solo-project Nordvargr. The recent reactivation of Pouppée Fabrikk and the advent of the tweaked up Nexus Kenosis seems to have signalled a renewed interest in body music from Björkk, with his latest foray into the field taking the form of Angst, a collaboration with Mathias Pettersson.
It’s probably a bit reductive to call Angst’s debut album Tar Ner Skylten old school EBM, although its starting point is unmistakably the analogue synth workouts of genre progenitors Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft. Where most bands shooting for that DAF sound are usually content to ape the 16th note bass groove and live drum sound, Angst have managed to to tap into a good deal of the weirdness of those early 80s records. Early tracks like opener “Välj” and and the pounding “Konstant” certainly have the heavy percussion and sequenced analogue bass down to a tee, but its in the chaotic and sometimes deliberately unintuitive arrangement of those elements that sells them. Either could have been a boilerplate dance number but is far more interesting as a halting blast of energy direct from whatever modular synth set-up birthed it. It’s actually almost halfway through the LP before you get the relatively straight ahead “Underbar” and “Vin Blod Sex Mord”, both of which benefit from their off-kilter predecessors.
While I quite like the barebones nature of these tracks, they would only get so far without Björkk’s own presence as a vocalist. Singing for the first time in his native Swedish, his confident prescence makes slowburners like the minimal “Samma Saker” and “Krav”, their spareness enlivened by Henrikk’s slightly raw crooning. Never going into the full-on aggression of some of his other work, he always seems to be holding a little back; that tension makes a song like “Sanning” where the buzzing loop seems to always be in danger of going off the rails before Björkk’s measured delivery pulls it back.
Controlled chaos isn’t an easy thing to do with songs that are this sparse, Angst manages by virtue of keeping things loose and not overthinking it too much. Unusual for what is nominally a throwback album, it’s in how Björkk and Petersson disregard a lot of the easy sonic touchstones and go for the spirit of those proto-EBM sounds rather than duplicating their form in exacting detail that makes Tar Ner Skylten intriguing. As a standalone it’s an entertaining listen for fans of the style, as part of Björkk’s ever-expanding discography it’s a testament to his range and his restless appetites as an artist.