As an important agent of Gothenburg’s underground scene, Dan Johansson has been a member of several experimental harsh noise projects such as Sewer Election, and lo-fi indie folk bands like Enhet För Fri Musik and Amateur Hour. Ordeal is his latest solo output, and might as well be ashes stuck in the blast furnace's edges of his last longing career. Not by means of summing up genres or as a culmination of his musical development, but as a profound music piece weaved in his own household.
With not much more than a synthesizer, Vätterns Pärla is built by trembling, dissonant drones stained in feedback and reverberation, thickly textured by the no-fi quality of the recording, depicting a menacing atmosphere congested with heavy fumes. In Johansson's words, Ordeal "takes inspiration from the early 80’s albums of Maurizio Bianchi, filtered through a Gothenburgian no-fi bleakness. It’s an album for inner voyage, childhood memories, and places that now lost purpose and meaning”.
There's certainly intimacy and nostalgia, yet a claustrophobic, hypnotic ambiance wraps it all up in a contained and narrow space. Emphasis is put on texture rather than on detail, on color rather than on progression, on suspense rather than on conclusion. Tension varies stiffly, sometimes a drone layer dismantles and the mood seems to filter, but ragged edges are never polished. We can feel the walls and the air, which although tarnished, can be breathed in somehow. It's as if waking up in a dark room and having to recognize it with our ears and tact, testing its dimensions and its surface. The stillness in the chamber is like the stillness between gasps of storms.
Without visible stars, an enclosed share of night sky hides a heavy load of industrial debris underwater. These remnants are maybe the pearl regarding the album's title. It all can seem like a dream, a grim mechanical soundscape deafened by hefty, yet sporadic winds. Soil strives to make something grow, but sprouting is kept suspended, held by a dismal presentiment. Long shadows on the ground prove that darkness is about to befall. And as these shadows stretch, almost about to break up in a loud strike, the noise turns white.