Ventill/Poki (2004)

RELEASE INFO:

4th album by Stafrænn Hákon was recorded, pre-mixed at home 2003-2004 and at Code Red studios Reading april 2004. Mixed & Mastered at Code Red by Daniel Lovegrove (Dialect) may 2004. All songs by Stafrænn Hákon except Blek, Kvos & Vetur co-written by Samuel White & Stafrænn Hákon.

Performers

Ólafur Josephsson: guitars, bass, drum-programming, synths.
Samuel White: guitar on Blek, Kvos & Vetur
Daniel Lovegrove: drums & percussion. Bass on Vetur
Þröstur Sigurðsson: trombone on Blek & Kvos.

After two full-lengths on Resonant, the much-lauded Stafraenn Hakon is about to step up proceedings with this, his first new material in two years – on
the back of the success and acclaim that met the aforementioned “Skvettir Edik a Ref” (RESCD005 – Oct 2003) and “I Astaandi Rjupunnar” (RESCD006 – March 2004), both of which were ‘old’ albums deservedly seeing light of dayfor the first time beyond his native Iceland.

Whereas those two were effectively home recordings using basic instruments and means, “Ventill/Poki” is the end result of a week in a studio in England with the help of fellow Resonant artist Dialect, using live bass and drums sounding like the product of a band rather than one guy. That said, crucially it retains the ‘feel’ of his previous work, and is more potent and
powerful rather than allowing anything to get lost in the mix. Coming on like a hybrid of Labradford, Sigur Ros and Mogwai and finishing up with one of the finest bodies of work within the ambient/post-rock sub-genre in years, this album seems certain to elevate Olafur Josephsson’s musical alias in the esteemed company of his most obvious peers in terms of status.
Released 12 September 2004.

Reviews

THE WIRE
“Last year’s Hakon album, ‘Skvettir Edik a Ref’, was largely self-produced and played. Beautifully sedate, it combined cool ambient arrangements with warm guitar melodies. ‘Ventill/Poki’ is fleshed out with guest musicians on most tracks, and a bolder if more conventional sound. Fortunately Hakon’s compositions are still masterful studies in layered arrangements, and while he now incorporates a full rhythm section, the frequently mesmerising, seamlessy interwoven combination of electronica and ambient guitar remains in place. Like fellow Icelanders Sigur Ros, Hakon does have a weakness for the epic, occasionally over-egging things with sumptuous layers of instrumentation. Elsewhere the solid drumming sometimes anchors the music too much. But when he gets the balance right, which is most of the time, this proves a worthy successor to his previous work.”  – Tom Ridge, The Wire


BOOMKAT
After two massively respected full-lengths on Resonant, the much-lauded Stafraenn Hakon is about to step up a gear or two. Ventil / Poki features Stafraenn’s first new material in two years – on the back of the success and acclaim that met the aforementioned “Skvettir Edik a Ref” and “I Astaandi Rjupunnar”, both of which were old albums deservedly seeing light of day for the first time beyond his native Iceland. Whereas those two were effectively home recordings using basic instruments and means, “Ventill/Poki” is the end result of a week in a studio in England with the help of fellow Resonant artist Dialect, using live bass and drums sounding like the product of a band rather than one guy. That said, it retains the feel of his previous work, and shimmers along similar territory to Sigur Ros and Ulrich Schnauss – quietly euphoric and unashamedly romantic. Recommended.


MORGUNBLAÐIÐ
Gjöful og skemmtileg (in icelandic) Ventill / Poki, breiðskífa með Stafrænum Hákoni, en svo nefnir sig tónlistarmaðurinn Ólafur Jósepsson. Ólafur semur sjö laganna einn, en þrjú með S. Samma sem leikur á gítar í þeim lögum. S. Daníel leikur á trommur í nokkrum lögum, S. Doddi á selló og S. Töddi á básúnu. Þetta er fjórða breiðskífa hans en áður hafa komið út heimagerðar skífur í heimagerðum umslögum. Resonant gefur út. 62:04 mín.

ÓLAFUR Jósepsson / Stafrænn Hákon hefur haldið sig við heimabruggið til þessa og en gefur nú út plötu á vegum þeirrar merku og virtu útgáfu Resonant. Á Ventli / Poka tekur hann undir sig stórt stökk inn í epíska naumhyggju, allir hljómar eru meiri um sig, rými á milli þeirra betur markað og hljóð hljóma betur. Líklegt verður að telja að hann hafi við höndina betri tól og tæki en fram til þessa, verkfæri sem gera honum kleift að hafa tónlistina skýrari og hreinni og um leið sterkari en áður, en hugsanlegt líka að hann hafi komist í betra hljóðver en forðum. Það hefur og sitt að segja að hann notar meira af lifandi hljóðfæraleik en áður, fær til liðs við sig mannskap til að spila á trommur, selló, gítara, bassa og básúnu, eftir því sem við á. Upphafslagið, “Unnar”, er einkar dægilegt, falleg laglína og þung undiralda skapa einkar skemmtilega sveimkennda stemmningu. Básúnan er skemmtilega notuð og sellóið skilar hlýum tregablöndnum hljómi. Sama er upp á teningnum í næsta lagi, “Bleki”, en þar er ljúfur gítar í aðalhlutverki þó óreiðan kraumi undir niðri. Þannig vindur plötunni fram að mestu leyti, átök hófleg, en fullt að gerast í hverju lagi þegar maður tekur að rýna í það. Gott dæmi er “Vogor” þar sem skemmtilega teygjanlegur taktur knýr lagið áfram. “Eder” er náskylt því, meinleysisleg gítarklifun lifnar við með taktlykkju sem er teygð og toguð, smám saman byggist upp spenna sem brýst svo út í hrífandi sterkum millikafla. Það er líka boðið upp á takt í “Kvos” undir lok plötunnar, raftakti og mannlegum áslætti er þar blandað saman á skemmtilegan hátt. “Kjammi” er svo hápunktur plötunnar að mínu mati, geysiöflugt lag með stöðugri stígandi og endar sem hátimbruð hljómahöll. Næsta lag þar á eftir, “Górecki Magnús”, er lítt síðra, en full stutt finnst mér. Stafrænn Hákon hefur bætt sig til muna og var þó góður fyrir. Poki / Ventill er framúrskarandi plata sem sýnir á sér nýja hlið við hverja hlustun. – Árni Matthíasson, Morgunblaðið


AQUARIOUS RECORDS
Well it says right on the shrinkwrap sticker that this is “mellow, instrumental post-rock so freaking lovely…Sigur Ros move over”. Hmm, can’t really argue with that since it’s quote from the Aquarius review of one of this Icelandic one-man-band’s other albums! He’s now back with his third Resonant label full-length, and if you liked the gentle sounds made previously by Stafraenn Hakon (aka Olafur Josephsson) you’ll undoubtedly swoon for this disc as well, especially if you thought his music should be even more sweet and lush and blissful, ’cause that’s where he’s going with this. But there’s a certain sadness inherent in his compositions that keeps them from ever getting too treacle-y. Gauzy ambient shimmer melts over organic instruments and some shuffling, vaguely glitchy electronic beats, as this album-length lullaby drifts by, pleasant and glorious. Though it may seem like this artist has cranked out a lot of releases lately, this is actually his first ‘new’ material recorded in two years! We’re glad to see he’s still in top form.


MUSIC CHOICE
There’s plenty of new music to listen out for this week and definitely worth a mention are the stunning tracks from Iceland’s Stafraenn Hakon. You might say that Iceland has had its time as the in-place for musical coolness, but the cold island is still the central hub for some of the best and most interesting music around. The country’s reputation was first brought in to the mainstream by that devilish little pixie, Bjork. Since then though, the experimental melody makers Sigur Ros have made a name for themselves and their homeland, and its wild and rich landscape has been sought for inspiration by artists such as Damon Albarn, Coldplay and San Diego’s Jimmy Lavalle. If you haven’t heard of Lavalle, check out his hauntingly beautiful album In A Safe Place, recorded under the artist name, The Album Leaf.

Ventill/Poki is Stafraenn Hakon’s third album recorded for the Resonant label but the body of work has only been available outside Iceland since March. He makes beautifully ambient post-rock with live bass and drums mixed with electronics, and the result is that it’s difficult to believe that this music is the work of just one man.

Unlike the first two albums, which were essentially home recordings, Ventill/Poki was recorded in a studio in England and it certainly has a more professional feel to it. None of the simple appeal has gone though, making this album the best of the three. Sit back, close your eyes and allow creeping Icelandic melodies to wash over you.

If you enjoy this stuff, remember to check out Sigur Ros, Mum, Dialect, Sk/Um, The Album Leaf, Olvis, Mogwai…


Piccadilly Records
Whereas his two previous albums were effectively home recordings using basic instruments and means, “Venti / Poki” is the end result of a week in a studio in England with the help of fellow Resonant artist Dialect, using live bass and drums sounding like the product of a band rather than one guy. That said, crucially it retains the ‘feel’ of his previous work, and is more potent and powerful rather than allowing anything to get lost in the mix.


SMALLFISH
THIS THIRD FULL ALBUM FROM STAFRAENN HAKON IS A SUPERB DEVELOPMENT ON THE FIRST TWO. THE FIRST THING THAT STRIKES YOU IS THE MORE BAND ORIENTATED SOUND THAT KICKS THINGS OFF. A DRUMMER, PROPER SONGS, ALL MIXED UP WITH THE SUPERB TRADEMARK LAYERED GUITAR SOUNDS. KIND OF LIKE SOME OF THE EARLIER CONSTELLATION MATERIAL BACK WHEN THEY WERE LEADING THE WAY WITH THIS KIND OF MUSIC. A BEAUTIFUL BALANCE DEVELOPS THROUGHOUT THE ALBUM WITH LUSH, DENSE SOUNDSCAPES DOMINATING IN THE LATTER HALF COMBINING A FRAGILE SOUNDING = GORGEOUSNESS WITH A MAJESTIC AND SOMEWHAT EPIC STYLE. THIS IS A MAGNIFICENT PIECE OF WORK, FOR FANS AND NEWCOMERS ALIKE. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.


C4 Teletext
‘It’s not often I get excited in this age of blandly-packaged tat, but I think I may have just bought the album of the year, namely “Ventill/Poki”
by Stafraenn Hakon. Anyone pining for the return of GY!BE or Labradford to fill the emotional gap in their lives need wait no longer.
10 tracks, all drop dead beautiful, with no annoying vocals to ruin it.
Pure laidback perfection, and I’m going to see them in Birmingham next week. Yippee!’


C4
The second album from Iceland’s Hakon was sent to us after his PR spotted a Voider raving about it’s mix of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Labradford. Fair play to the Voider concerned, as Hakon is one of post-rock’s rare artists to engage the heart, his soothing strings not as pretentious as most littering the genre.
So mellow it’s a tad tad one-paced, but it’s stuffed with moments of great beauty.
Charming, occasionally very special, and a fine recommendation.
7/10.


Leeds Music Scene
Fans of the late Mogwai and Sigur Ros albums are in for a treat. Recommended by a random person I met at Crash Records, this album is a must have for any post rock fans wish list.

Stafrænn Hákon has produced an album an extremely captivating album that radiates throughout. The gentle use of layered guitar and emotional melodic riffs captivates one’s imagination and transports you to a glacial wonderland.

In songs such as “Vetur” and “Unnar” Hákon manages to subtly merge electronic drum loops with classical instruments such as cellos and trombones yet maintains the guitar movements that bands such as Godspeed you black emperor! and Mogwai are keenly associated with; except for the extreme noise outs which is a welcome break from the traditional verse chorus verse chorus chorus WALL OF NOISE that seems to dog the post rock genre.

Melodic and lush this album gives us an introspective view into the melancholic mind of Stafrænn Hákon . Even though it’s only October ask your parents, friends or other-half to get you this for x-mas now!
4,5 / 5


Fort de deux albums plus qu’honnêtes sur le label Resonant , Stafrænn Hakon revient avec son post-rock embrumé aux forts accents de Mogwai et Sigur ros. De son vrai nom Olafur Josephsson , Stafrænn Hakon , cet islandais de naissance nous invite une fois encore à parcourir les étendues infinies de sa région à travers une musique lente, progressive et entièrement dédiée à la méditation.

Toujours les mêmes impressions au sujet de Stafraenn Hakon , qui a défaut de sortir des disques identiques, reste dans des schémas similaires quant à la musique qu’il propose. Nappes légères et éthérées, mélodies douces, lumière blanche, etc, sont une fois encore au programme de ce Ventill/Poki . Et même si le plaisir est toujours là, on ne peut s’empêcher d’être un peu déçu de ne pouvoir écouter toujours et encore que ces sempiternelles harmonies, ces ambiances polaires, aussi belles soient-elles.

Album malgré tout séduisant et réussi, mais comme on l’a dit, sans doute trop dans la continuité des précédents opus, ventill/poki nous laisse la même impression que celle que peut vous laisser un vieux pote qui raconte toujours les même vannes mais que l’on aime malgré tout pour sa bonne humeur communicative. Ici on ne parlera pas de bonne humeur mais simplement de bonne musique, de musique de plaisir, simple et belle, quel l’on a envie de partager et de faire écouter à ceux qui voudront l’apprécier pour ce qu’elle est. ****

Benoît Richard


De mensen die Björk , Sigur Rós en múm het einde vinden, nodigen we aan volgende week nóg een stap verder te gaan in hun zoektocht naar muzikale schoonheid uit het hoge noorden. Van 2 tot en met 9 december vindt in Gent namelijk ‘Etoiles Polaires’ plaats, een zogeheten Vooruit Geluid Festival dat zijn (noorder)licht wil laten schijnen over artistiek talent uit de arctische gebieden. Je kan er dan terecht voor (muziek)films uit de landen rond de Noordpool, voor video- en geluidsinstallaties en tentoonstellingen van beeldende kunstenaars. Toch ligt de nadruk op muziek: Inuit hiphop (met Nuuk Posse uit Groenland), keelzangeressen uit de ijsvlakten van Nunavik in Québec, dans en zang uit Alaska, Siberië en Lapland. De schare IJslandse artiesten op het programma lijken er plots “heel gewoontjes” bij, al is dat natuurlijk heel relatief. Niet zelden is het niveau van de muziek uit deze regionen recht evenredig met de geografische ligging…

Björk en Sigur Rós niet meegerekend (beide acts worden sinds ze bij een major zitten, naar verluidt door sommige landgenoten een beetje met een “scheef oog” bekeken) is de crème de la crème van de IJslandse scene present. Wanneer u op woensdag 8 december niet weet wat te doen, dan raden we u aan af te zakken naar de Vooruit voor Eberg (de man die o.a. een met snaren bespannen kleerhangertje bespeelt) en Stafrænn Hákon. Nadat Hákon (voor de burgerlijke stand Olafur Josephsson) in 1999 de band Sullaveiki Bandormurinn verliet, begon hij te experimenteren met gitaren en drumloops. Gaandeweg ontwikkelde hij zijn eigen stijl, een soort ambient gitaarmuziek; laagjes warme gitaarmelodieën die over elkaar werden geplakt en gestut door een drummachine.
Na enkele huisgemaakte e.p.’s en langspelers (‘Skvettir Edik a Ref’ en ‘I ástandi Rjúpunnar’) die later werden opgepikt door enkele grotere labels, is Hákon met ‘Ventill / Poki’ aan zijn derde langspeler toe. Dit is slechts een fractie van ‘s mans productie, want met de regelmaat van de klok stuurt hij nieuwe releases de wereld in (soms met een oplage van slechts 50 exemplaren). Het is dan ook haast onbegonnen werk het integrale oeuvre van de naar Groot-Brittannië uitgeweken Ijslander in een overzicht te gieten.
Qua intensiteit en subtiliteit combineert hij het beste van múm en Sigur Rós (zonder zijn landgenoten evenwel te plagiëren of te kopiëren). Het ene moment klinkt zijn muziek heel erg fragiel, dan weer laat hij het geluid zo aanzwellen dat hij uitkomt bij de epische walls of sound van Sigur Rós. De vergelijking met In A Safe Place van The Album Leaf, de plaat van James LaValle die eerder dit jaar verscheen en waarop múm- en Sigur Rós-leden meededen, ligt dan ook voor de hand. De schoonheidsfoutjes waarop Onze Man In A Safe Place betrapte, zijn er hier evenwel niet bij. Niet alleen wordt er nergens gezongen op deze plaat, de tien tracks hebben meer body dan die van The Album Leaf. Hákon is er wel in geslaagd zijn gastmuzikanten mooi aan de leiband te houden en alleen datgene te spelen wat de nummers ten goede komt.
Een prominente rol is uiteraard weggelegd voor Hákons subtiele gitaarspel en voor wat spaarzame drummachine-geluidjes, maar de aanwezigheid van live drums maakt dat de muziek iets ruimtelijker en concreter klinkt dan die van LaValle. Alsof Mogwai plots zou zijn overgeschakeld op zachte wiegeliedjes. Wat dit alles live geeft, zal volgende week blijken in Gent. Maar als u weet dat Hákon in het verleden al het publiek van zowel postrockbands (Godspeed You! Black Emperor) als elektronica-acts wist te bekoren (Ampop), moét u wel hoopvol gestemd zijn! ****

Markus Niementhaler