SOVA STROJ - Refugium

Sova Stroj - Refugium

5 songs
39:43 minutes
***** ****


One and a half year after his debut album Silent Earth, Luxembourgish musician Sova Stroj is back with his second longplayer Refugium, offering once again his own mysterious brand of dark electronic ambient music. The album is released digitally and on vinyl, for the connoisseurs out there. Sova Stroj is the alter ego of Michel Flammant who should be known chronologically from bands like John McAsskill, Minipli and Plankton Waves. His bands became more minimal over time, culminating in Sova Stroj which is basically patterns created on modular synthesizers. But it’s not as easy as that!

Compared to its predecessor, Refugium feels a little more developed, although the songs are still mostly very long and love to take their time to build up suspense. The opener Crépuscule begins with somewhat nervous high-pitched pulses that soon turn deeper and then are accompanied by discreet drones. Fleeting melodies come from nowhere and go back right there. In the middle of the track, the pulses become high-pitched again, like minuscule sprites trying to sing. The following Schlaf und Traum is less pulsing, but more of a meditative drone track with once again surreptitious melodies creeping in from seemingly out of nowhere. Especially towards its end, the flute sounds give the song a very early Seventies kraut rock flair. And this ends already the first half or side A of the album.

Side B begins with Nivian, a creepy drone track where on the surface not much seems to happen, but the devil lies in the details, as is so often the case with Sova Stroj. The first half of the track is used to build up the atmosphere on which the artist later adds the melodic touches. The final two tracks are at five and six minutes rather short, but it’s good to hear that Sova Stroj is also able to function at more concise lengths. Crossing is a cold piece of music with a metallic sound that makes for a shivering mood, before consolation sets in on the concluding Lethe, an organ drone piece that transports the listener into oblivion.

Refugium is a concept album, of sorts. Just as on Silent Earth, the songs feel like a journey through time, or maybe even a journey after time has come to an end. Where Crépuscule might mean the moment when everything is starting to end, Schlaf und Traum is the transition into the beyond, starting with the snow white planes of Nivian, before we are Crossing into the realm of Lethe where everything dissolves. That’s at least the movie my mind made up about the forty minutes of music or sounds on Refugium. It’s not your typical music, but rather a very dark take on ambient that due to its analogue sound has a lot in common with many of the cosmic music pioneers of the early Seventies (early Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze). It’s a bit disconcerting when listening to while driving, but the perfect soundtrack for reading a science fiction late at night.

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