Porn Sword Tobacco - New Exclusive Olympic Heights
George Bass 19/04/2007
If your only tastes of Sweden are blue-movie rewinds of vintage Eurotrash and the freying Abba vinyl you find at the knackers' yard of a boot fair, prepare yourself for Henrik Jonsson - a pariah-like innovator who records all his output in the foresty Scandinavian equivalent of Aphex Twin's bank vault, and who takes his stage-name from the billboard outside the last shop he sees before he disappears into the pines. His new collection of ambient quirkiness sees him housetraining the fidgety foreplay that made his eponymous 2004 debut such a coffee table must-have, and enticing a more melodic angle into the force-field static of his earlier templates. New Exclusive Olympic Heights is his most realised record to date, and builds on the promise of previous releases with a good-natured maturity - imagine the shat-your-pants scariness of Akira Yamaoka's Silent Hill soundtracks reworked with a warm continental promotion, like Casino Versus Japan on a French exchange.
It takes three tracks for Jonsson to bring a beat into his familiar luminous mulch but it's worth the wait, and by the time the swarthy marinal stutter of Giftwrap Yourself, Slowly is in full flight, you know you're onto something worthy of Warp's finest. This isn't the new precadent, though, and almost instantly Copyright The Universe brings things back to a more recognisable boozy flotation, seemingly mimicing the adventures of Ecco The Dolphin lost in space, his pulserate stabilised by beta-blockers while he tries to outfox the intergalactic tuna net. Even when it's at its most morose you can feel the fervent delight Jonsson's airbrushed into his compositions, and his enthusiasm helps bind the white noise and strewn melodies into something aurally photogenic. As a result, the thirty-five minutes of meandering that make up the album never get too gloopy, and even if they do they're insured by a tongue-in-cheek humour; Pappa! Min Kärlek Är Gravid (your guess is as good as mine) is a schmaltzy sci-fi sayonara, the sound of John Carpenter's Starman descending on Watership Down and something Steven Spielberg would use to make right-minded people throw things at their telly.
Though Brian Eno obviously casts a big shadow over Jonsson's songwriting, his handiwork is altogether more prickly than your average ambient album, and would perhaps be better suited to the runway rather than the air-conditioned beige of a departure lounge. However, his mentors seem to have given his muse a definite temporal nudge into retro-territory, and as a result the album is likely to serve as a strong contender for favourite stopgap in the spaces between Boards Of Canada LPs. For every placid drone there's an eyeful of sparky noodling, and by the time you've got bug-rug snug with the sine wave anime of Ljus, Den Yttersta Gåvan, cutesy as the Moomins taking a Matey bath, you're tapping into the hysterical ramblings of American auction TV with My Lovely Wife Becky. If only CFCs could dissolve the ionosphere instead of the ozone layer.
The more puritanical listeners may get miffed at Jonsson's leapfrogging between three-minute instrumentals and sixty-second soundbites, but if you're after something unchallenging then what are you doing listening to an act called "Porn Sword Tobacco"? If, on the other hand, you find the interludes on IDM albums as appetising as the main acts then New Exclusive Olympic Heights will gradually budge its way into your affections with a lot more assurance than the Athens subcontractors of its namesake. In places it can feel like he's taken over from where labelmate Arovane signed off three years ago with Good Bye Forever, but for the most part Jonsson retains the lasermark individuality that makes his music uncurl from the speakers like a tin of slow-motion springsnakes and keeps any of the tracks from clotting. While the pace of the record never gets to the level where it'd make Shumacher sweat, there's by and large enough loveliness on tap here to leave the Murray Walkers out there speechless. For a little while, at least.