A year on from Stockholm-based electronic producer Varg’s preceding third volume in his ‘Nordic Flora’ series ‘Gore Tex City’ on Northern Electronics, this latest fifth volume, subtitled ‘Crush’ offers up an overarching emotional tone that’s considerably different. While ‘Gore Tex City’ saw Varg drawing upon collaborations with industrial alumni Alessandro Cortini and Drew McDowell as well as Swedish sad-rap figurehead Yung Lean, as its title hints ‘Crush’ centres on the spike of adrenaline that accompanies infatuation and attraction, where behaviour and perception becomes boosted by chemical and emotional intensity.
There’s also a distinct emphasis upon female collaborators, with previous Varg associates AnnaMelina and Chloe Wise featuring heavily amongst the 14 tracks collected here. While it’s a considerably more exhilarated and tender listening experience though, there’s still plenty of stormy darkness lurking amidst the swelling layers of digitally sculpted synths.
‘Music For Breakups’ sees Morning Star’s delicate French spoken vocals giving way to a rich swell of swooning ambient synths that feels like warm sunshine, even as more moody orchestral elements begin to gradually rise up in the background, the resulting opulent sweep calling to mind Tangerine Dream given a post-rock twist as droning distortion lurks in the distance. ‘Rush / Tinder’ meanwhile sees Varg’s established techno predilections rising to the forefront, its blurred fusion of muted kickdrums, clattering snare shuffles and wistful, glassy synth arrangements sending the listener off a journey that feels serene and lulling, even as the cluttered textural layers flit by.
Perhaps most notably, there’s a distinct emphasis upon ASMR-triggering uses of vocal and textural elements here that calls to mind Holly Herndon’s recent explorations in this arena, the resulting sensory effects heightening the sense of intimacy as well as the creeping unease. ‘Stonewall Poem’ sees AnnaMelina’s spoken word poetry being digitally manipulated, her syllables constantly shadowed by pitched-down echoes of themselves against a wash of echoing background textures, resulting in tingling sensations down the spine when listened to over a decent set of headphones.
Elsewhere, the sweeping ‘U Control The Ocean’ achieves a similar effect through its placement of sonics and frequencies as flickering trap rhythms chatter back and forth against an oceanic wash of ebbing ambient synths and aquatic sounding kickdrums, the pulsing calm constantly undercut with a constant feeling of itchiness. On the basis of this fifth volume in his ‘Nordic Flora’ series, it’s anyone’s guess as to where Varg goes next. Whatever the case, this album captures him at the top of his game.