Reveal is the third album from Elskavon, the ambient project of Minneapolis composer Chris Bartels. It is also the second installment of a double album, the follow-up to 2013's Release.
The contrast and growth of the sound from Release to Reveal is certainly intentional. This is the first Elskavon album that introduces drums and percussion, and touches on a more ethereal post-rock style, while still behind an ambient wash.
Most of the Elskavon albums are written and recorded by Chris alone in the studio, but he sought out some collaboration this time around. Bjorn Nilsen, good friend and Bora York bandmate of Chris', recorded acoustic drums for "Imprints," "Letting Go" and "April Rain."
Another aspect of collaboration, the album artwork was again a photo by Anton Novoselov. Anton's photos have been used for both Release and Reveal, and the transition from night to day in these photos coincides with the musical style progression.
While Chris finds inspiration for these songs from many aspects and facets of life, the root love of making music for him comes down to one question. Are you alive?
Are you living each day alive, free, passionate? Enjoying the passing moments while also living in anticipation for something greater? Are you living for something greater than yourself?
Are you living each day in an identity that gives you life or an identity that tears you down?
Important questions. Not always easy questions to ask ourselves. But important.
Creating is obviously a part of Chris' identity, and obviously part of what makes him alive. His hope is that the music is an inspiration to anyone who hears it. Don't waste time. Live for something greater than yourself. Find your real identity, one that brings you life.
Release your imagination. So it can Reveal your identity.
Release is the second album from Elskavon, the ambient moniker of Minneapolis composer Chris Bartels. This collection of songs continues on the path where the late 2012 debut album Movements In Season ended, with large, lush atmospheres and open textures.
Ambient music has always been able to create opportunities for listeners to interpret emotions in a variety of ways, and any one song can mean something so different from one set of ears to the next. For Chris, inspiration for these songs arrives in a similar fashion. It comes from all sorts of angles - love and friendship, hope and doubt, life and death.
Residents of Minnesota know the drastic difference of the four calendar seasons all too well. Summer in the “land of 10,000 lakes” is overwhelmingly beautiful, while winter is, to say the least, frigid. While certainly bound to be diverse in interpretation, Release was originally inspired by the many Minnesota winters Chris has experienced. It is the first of a double album. A ‘spring’ version will follow, after a predictably chilled few months.
The album opens with the expansive, airy four-and-a-half minute crescendo titled “We Can All Be New.” The listener is encouraged to become lost in the grand calm of spacious vocals, guitars, and sampled atmospheres. This leads to an immediate transition with the second track, “Small Hands,” which was written in anticipation of Chris’ and his wife’s first child, who will join them in the spring. The simple piano piece is reminiscent of any number of calming neo-classical songs or minimalist film scores.
Containing three less songs than the debut Movements In Season yet nearly the same length as a whole, Release exercies a bit more open space, minimalism, and droning techniques.
Whatever the interpretation, whatever the emotions evoked, whatever the meaning perceived, listeners are encouraged to allow Elskavon's Release to become a soundtrack to the freedom of letting go and the beauty of holding on.
Perhaps to its perennial advantage, the ambient instrumental project Elskavon was not born on any specific date, but rather organically as an aspiration of Minneapolis native Chris Bartels sometime as early as 2007. Over the course of five years, Elskavon was most often a low priority, albeit never forgotten.
Intertwined with, and most assuredley inspired by, the many seasons of life he experienced - separate musical ventures, school, traveling, getting married - Chris composed and recorded a fairly ample collection of Elskavon songs over these five years. Created in his bedroom on late nights, these songs were often an escape from the steady quarrel of life. They, in turn, would be only demos, but planted the seeds for a future album.
It was not until the early fall of 2012 that Elskavon finally became a real priority. Rather than attempt to resurrect and refine aged and scattered material, Chris started from scratch, writing and recording a full length album in the matter of a few weeks. It was a passionate pursuit to invoke that feeling of peaceful escape that drove the inception of Elskavon’s debut Movements In Season.
The album fuses acoustic instruments with electronic elements to create a bond of sonic landscapes and formed songwriting. Chris recorded piano, acoustic and electric guitar layers, samplers, synthesizers, and more. He also experimented with implementing everday items and utilities, such as a pack of batteries, a bag of rice, or the sound of a running sink. Mixing all this with careful yet aggressive use of dynamics, delays, and filters, Movements In Season fashions a sensation of peaceful intensity.
It was Chris’ interest for classical pieces with captivating twists of modernism and minimalism that kept the project of Elskavon alive over the years, and a love for soaking sonic ambience that most intently drove the creation and conclusion of the album. The hope was that Movements In Season would drench the listener in wonderment, peace, and occasionally, when everything falls into place just right, a gentle sense of awe.
P R E S S
"Release is a serene and lovely record catering to a very pure ambient aesthetic."
"This mournful track, "Five Years," is the closing number on Elskavon's recent record, Movements In Season, and the gorgeously retro video perfectly compliments the somber, stirring nature of the track itself."
"Acoustic and electronic blend together to create soundscapes that are warm and organic, yet spacious and dreamlike."
"Release is a rather lovely ambient/modern classical album from Elskavon that will appeal to fans of Goldmund, Olafur Arnalds and possibly Hauschka."
"[Imprints] possesses ethereal choruses and a mood that reminds you of Valtari, Sigur Ros' most ambient/dream-pop sounding LP."
D O W N L O A D S