There is something unpretentious and playful about Mikkel Haraldstad (Mikkel Rev) and Filip Storsveen’s (Oprofessionell) work together as Omformer. The pair have a cheery disposition in person that spills over into their music. It’s accentuated by a DIY approach to production that sees them evoke the sounds of mid-90s electronic music with everything from broken beats to Trance informing their work, individually and together. They made their debut as Omformer last month on the label-defining Groundcontrol compilation from UTE.REC, where they laid their claim in the resurgence of Trance that is currently coming out of the Uteklubb franchise. As card-carrying members of the DJ collective and record label, Haraldstad and Storsveen are leading the hedonistic charge in electronic music with their latest release which establishes Sinesis, a new sub-label in the UTE.REC franchise which is all about “experimenting with ambient soundscapes and trancey journeys.”
They make good on their promise on the first release for the new label where they travel to some trancey heights on Plasma Wave, and comprehensively indulge their ambient pursuits with the rather lengthy, hour-long piece called Return to Gravity. The first inclination about Return to Gravity is to assume that this is little more than a self-indulgent jam session captured on record, and although there’s a certain organic touch to the track that would suggest it was originally conceived as a live session, the song matures beyond the impromptu mechanisations of purely improvised music. Impulsive modulations are conservatively applied in a composition that lingers more than it travels. There’s a thematic consistency; a bell-like synth moving between the foreground and the background in slow waves, as unwavering melodic motifs ebb and flow through the arrangement. The whole piece appears as if stuck in a gravity well, never moving away from the fundamental chord that stays in situ throughout the hour. Modulating to a different chord, might have added a little more depth and interest throughout the piece, but I sense that is not what Omformer were trying to achieve with this track.
Return to Gravity obsessively lingers on a theme, extending time and stretching a composition to some indefinite destination that never quite comes, as if rendering the idea of slow-tv to music. Any development happens in a musical substrate, emerging and disappearing between a composition that is locked in stasis. Melodic passages and sonic atmospheres flutter through the track in wispy inconsequential whims that only go to imbue the texture of Return to Gravity, and offer little in the way of progression. It’s music as atmosphere to the point that when a sharp arpeggio or noisy laser like sound effect cuts through the arrangement, it doesn’t arrive as a shock, but rather relief. These short melodic curiosities come and go with one phase handing over to the next, but always within the context of the omnipresent foundations that never relinquish their post. It’s the plucked synth ostinato on loop and the veiled pad occupying the upper frequencies that keeps Return to Gravity stationary for its duration, and while it makes for a great sonic atmosphere, it longs for some musical development.
Plasma Wave offers the counterpoint as Omformer set their sights back on the first room and the dance floor, picking up where they left off with Rotation on Groundcontrol. Pushing the tempo where it flirts with the 140 mark, they utilise that very same approach to their ambient work, where melodic pieces and atmospheres move and grow around the arrangement, the only difference being that here it is punctuated by a lively rhythm section. It’s amazing how quickly Haraldstad and Storsveen have established their sound within this new Trance aesthetic, both as individuals and now as Omformer. There doesn’t seem to be any predetermined objective to arrive at this sound, and while they would most certainly have been inspired by an older generation’s music, they’ve made it their own and firmly installed it in a contemporary landscape, where younger audiences are flocking to this music It’s hard to predict whether this is a fad or something that will develop further, picking up from where we left it at the end of 90s, and while there will certainly be artists trying to exploit the renewed interest, there are artists like Omformer that seem to be doing it for sincere and unique reasons, like making an hour long ambient composition, just because they can.