STAR'S END, (USA):
Small things are perfectly formed. This could be said of music by Erik Wollo. The 15 tracks on The Polar Drones (69'25"), his 11th album, are minute yet impeccably executed in exacting flair. In the span of two to five minutes each of these
miniatures offers a broad range in mood and music - from brisk grooves and penetrating rhythms to crystaline dreamscapes and delicate starlit melodies - The Polar Drones easily moves thematically through gleaming glacial panoramas on out into
the Arctic winter's long dark night.
Most of the tracks here exist as individual statements, but some have been strung together through interesting crossfades
and transitions. "Pulsar" (4'50") opens cold with cascading interlocked sequencer tones beneath a ribbon of luminous swirling effects. "The Return of the Sun" (7'29") begins in much the same way, but quickly evolves into a weighty tour across a frozen landscape inhabited by icy piano-like tones and undulating basslines. "Distant Sun Rays" (2'51") moves slowly as deep
churning drones slide beneath Wollo's breathing guitar and synth pads. Equally beautiful and arresting is the concluding track "Farewell" (4'08") - euphonic in its drift beneath the circling star trails and shining auroras of the polar regions. Other tracks hint at Drum 'n Bass, Trance and World Music influences - all rising out of Wollo's Contemporary Instrumental stylings. A real tonic in the themes, Wollo's music does not lose its power to familiarity.
There is a majestic quality to The Polar Drones - a harmony within its spirituality, development and design. Whether he is
describing the bareness of a vast tundral landscape or the complexity of an individual snowflake - Erik Wollo offers incredible insight into the world through the infinite perspectives of music.
Chuck van Zyl
KLEM Magazine (Holland)
Recently, many excellent electronic music-CD's are released but every now and then one comes out that really does
something to you and leaves you with a great
feeling. Music that grabs you by the throat, music to hear over and over again. Erik Wøllo's "The Polar Drones" is one of those albums. In his long career, this
Norwegian ambient-artist has created many,
well respected albums and gave fine
"The Polar Drones" contains very beautifully constructed pieces of music that form a mixture between slowly drifting images
of icy landscapes, intriguing rhythms and
simple but innovative sequences. "Expedition" is a perfect example: it reflects the intelligent musical reflections of Erik's fellow-countryman Geir Jenssen (Biosphere) but has a more lively approach to it
through the use of rhythms. Brilliant sequences are put into pieces like "Soft Machine", "Pulsar" and "The Return of the Sun".
Sometimes, the music gets darker as in "Polar Drone 2", "Eyes Of The Horizon" and "Farewell" and the percussion in "The
Struggle" reminds of Steve Roach. The
highlight of the album is "Glacier Blue" with a great atmosphere, great rhythms and
great use of a female vocal.
If there exists something like "Polar music", "The Polar Drones" is it!
Amasing Sounds, (Spain):
We find ourselves before one of the most Space albums by Erik Wollo. Working on
the most electronic slopes of his personal style, Wollo offers us a collection
of magnificient soundscapes. The polar inspiration of the album, so obvious in
appears to be perceived in many passages. Listening to the music, it
happens to be easy to imagine oneself in the midst of the vast bleakness of the
polar regions of our world. Incommensurable extensions of ice fading into the
majestically floating on the freezing waters as if they were
titans. Ghostly dusks. The immensity of wild nature, still untamed by the human
being, exhibiting its beauty as well as its aggressivity at the same time.
Sonic Curiosity, (USA):
This CD from 2003 features 69 minutes of energized ambience.
Norwegian Erik Wollo combines the atmospheric qualities of Geir Jenssen (aka
Biosphere) and American ambient maestro Steve Roach with his own individualistic
arctic spin, generating soundscapes that are lavish but hardly understated.
Icy textures float like shimmering clouds overhead, while crystalline keyboards
enunciate delicate harmonics that convey a
pleasant frigidity. These electronics do more than simply evoke arctic landscapes, they convey strong tactile impressions that transform this music into a full sensory experience.
Exalted percussion provides congenial rhythms for this sparkling electronic tapestry. Nimble tempos inject an energetic flair to the even-tempered flow, attributing the ambience with a compelling verve.
Despite their languid nature, Wollo's compositions are passionate and gripping. He creates a dreamy serenity that is laced with a sense of tension infused with a softly seething power that remains unintrusive, but is impossible to ignore. His melodies are often considerably more complex than drifting atmospheric structures, peppered with invigorating passages that uplift and open one's mental eyes to intangible
Some of this music was originally made for TV documentary films for polar
expeditions, while other tracks were used as background music for the Winter
Olympic Games in Salt Lake City in 2002.
WIND AND WIRE, (USA):
You'll have to excuse the deliberate pun, but Erik Wøllo's album, The Polar Drones, is the perfect album to "chill out" with.
This is a superb collection of fifteen tracks that feature all manner of electronic music that never revs up too much nor lays
down too low, and how better to describe chill-out music? Of course, I consider myself a huge fan of this Norwegian artist,
appreciating all aspects of his talent, from his acoustic and electric guitar playing (such as on his release Guitar Nova) as well as his electronic keyboard skills (on releases like Transit and Emotional Landscapes). The Polar Drones finds him camped
almost exclusively in the latter arena, with many songs displaying his talents on layering various synthesizers and dropping
in assorted electronic and acoustic percussion to yield exquisite
downtempo music that covers everything from ambient to EM to chill-out to
Opening with the eerily beautiful short ambient piece "The Barren Land Theme"
with swirling washes and twinkling synth
tones and Wøllo's signature echoed piano notes), the CD's first foray into beats is on the next number, "Expedition." As the
track begins, there are icicle-like shimmering textures that fade into bump-a-bump slow tempo bass beats, buoyed by
mellow underlying synths and an undulating
wash of keyboards. "Zima" (one of three tracks that are longer than six
minutes), begins in a forbidding vein, with echoed gong-like reverberations and strange noise effects. A steady clock-ish
beat emerges along with watery tones, before Wøllo starts blending in an array of ethnic percussion rhythms amid whirly-gigging
electronics. He then folds in more lush undercurrents of synthesizers that pulse with life beneath the now snappy
more electronica-like beats. He wraps it all up with delicate guitar work laced throughout all the beats and tones.
Some of the songs on The Polar Drones are musically evocative of a frozen wasteland, yet one that is filled with majesty and beauty. One such track is the short title piece (one of two selections titled "The Polar Drones," this one being "The Polar
Drones 1"). Layers of keyboards and synths float along effortlessly with an air of icy beauty and one can almost picture an
expanse of blue-white glaciers stretching out to the horizon. Then there are completely different songs, such as the next
one, "Soft Machine" a track that marries minor key synths with a rapid chugging beat and underlying bass notes, having an
almost railroad-like cadence to them. The undercurrent of gentle warm drones provides a soothing backdrop to the
percolating rhythms. Another overt electronic piece is the aptly-titled "Pulsar" which, of course, has a decidedly spacemusic-ish feel to it and features assorted electronic beats and swooshing retro-ish keyboards. "Map of the Mind" follows, and here the emphasis is on muted electronic textures and a Patrick O'Hearn-like mournful bass lead line.
Two of the last four songs are seven-plus minutes in length, "The Return of the Sun," and "Glacier Blue." "The Return of the Sun" begins in a neo-Germanic vein, all aglow with sequenced synth notes and gentle whistling tones, before coming alive
with more dramatic rhythms and the emergence of electric guitar, bass beats, and Wøllo's recognizable echoed piano. As the track builds up steam, the artist adds yet more textures and elements to the song, yet it never really gets too "hot" because this, after all, The POLAR Drones! The album ends with a perfect closing track, the softly beautiful synthesizer song,
"Farewell," which concludes the CD on a haunting reflective note, filled with a touch of regret.
Of interest is that Wøllo composed the first seven tracks as a promotional CD for a company and some of the other songs
were used as soundtrack selections for a TV documentary on polar expeditions and also as background music for the 2002
Winter Olympics. Whoever selected these pieces as musical accompaniment to those events should be commended on
his/her taste, because The Polar Drones is visually evocative music of the highest degree. While you could play this in the
background and enjoy it just fine that way, I think that you, like me, would consistently find your attention being grabbed by the plaintive melodies and catchy rhythms. Before you know it, you'd be dreaming of ice fields, towering snow-capped
mountains and night skies aglow with the humbling beauty of the aurora borealis.
The Polar Drones earns my highest recommendation and further solidifies my belief that Erik Wøllo is one of the more
innovative and under-rated artists in the EM genre.