Alex Crispin * Erik Wøllo

Open Submissions


When an album is introduced with the suggestion to file it under “New Age, Healing, Devotional, Spiritual” and stuff like that I usually approach with caution. I’m not particularly fond of music classified as New Age, since it often is too sugary for me and lacks tension and depth (to my ears).
I’m afraid that marketing tags like these open up a specific audience but at the same time scare off many other listeners who would probably enjoy it in a different context.

But a tag is just a tag, and genres are only there to be crossed… so one has to keep an open-mind and try to listen without prejudices.. and as a result sometimes find a gem that really is a pleasure to listen to. (This, by the way is one of the reason I do not read any album promo information before listening to it).

Such a surprise is the release of Alex Crispin‘s album Open Submissions on the Constellation Tatsu cassette label (a debut for this particular label focusing on the “adventurous with spiritual artistic sensibilities”).

Sometimes people ask why most of the ambient electronic music is dark and tense, why it is harder to find ‘light-hearted’ and brighter examples of the genre. Open Submissions is one of these examples: bright, flowing, lovely and optimistic music created with guitar, rhodes piano and synths – and on church organ on St. Stephens.
A pleasure to listen to, especially on a sunny day.

Treshold Point


Somewhat in the same vein, musically, is the music of Norwegian composer Erik Wøllo. His back-catalogue boasts over 40 albums in various genres, but he is probably best known for his electronic music releases on the Projekt label. Not specifically labelled ‘new age’ this time, more as ‘down-tempo electronics’ (see how a different label tag might completely change the audience?).
But with the same ‘optimistic’ approach: uplifting, positive sounding music.. let’s say it’s almost a counterpart to music that is described as ‘isolationist’ or ‘arctic’.

It may be a bit strange to describe this music in terms like this, since according to the liner notes these pieces were written under tragical circumstances: while Wøllo was staying in Brooklyn, his sister grew ill and died. “I sense these circumstances influenced the music, making it more ethereal  and humble than some of my other works.” 

Erik Wøllo is on the scene since 1980, so he is among the veterans of this sound. He has worked with artists like Steve Roach, Byron Metcalf and Ian Boddy – among many others – and if you know these names you can almost point out the sound of his music. The guitar is his main instrument, embedded in electronic soundscapes and sequencer loops. The mood is “contemplative and expressively intense”, ranging from floating ambientscapes to pulsating rhythmic pieces  as in the four-part Mosaic Of Time.

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