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  • Writer's pictureThe Vinyl Hole

Arin Aksberg – It Flows Between Us (2023) & Nordic Patterns (2024)

Label: Projekt Records

By Derek Howie




I'm always excited when a new artist crosses my listening path, I dive in much more with a fresh talent than recall the established, inspirational acts that are often tagged in. Several familiar names, Ólafur Arnalds, Nils Frahm and Jon Hopkins have all been associated with 24-year-old Norwegian composer, music producer and multi-instrumentalist Arin Aksberg, in the wake of releasing 2 stunning albums inside 10 months of each other on Projekt Records, who in their own right have been a leading light in ethereal, neo-classical, gothic, and ambient music for more than 30 years. 


As an alternative music site, I’m always looking at putting a twist into our reviews. Here, I’ll surmise both albums track-by-track, then speak to Arin himself, and then outline my own playback overview. I hope you enjoy it!




In March of last year, Arin debuted ‘It Flows Between Us’, a breath-taking and beautifully balanced collection. From the opening song ‘Virtuality’, the scene is set for the whole album, with a stirring range piano movement, which are also used as the only rhythmic elements present, along with ethereal ambient textures and pin sharp strings that glide in and out.

The haunting allure of ‘Airportwaiting’ sums up its title, a monotony of doing nothing as time and people pass by. A constantly evolving hive is only drowned out by the sound of internal clocks ticking out at different rates. ‘At Breakneck Speed’ meanders with lush ambience and a wash of strings that bookend the keys that are off in distance. But the upfront void is filled out with bass, when it hits, it hits down low!


The next piece is ‘12’, it’s somewhat of a palate cleanser. A minimal, rhythmic solo piece of prepared piano which thinly builds layer upon layer. The title track ‘It Flows Between Us’ is another departure. An electronic tingler, very much in the sound of early Berlin School. As is ‘Never Without Your Presence’, an emotive builder, that starts raw and sparse, gradually gaining brightness and body.


‘In Memory’ is another beautiful little track, with piano and strings that dance together. There’s an organic, impromptu nature here that becomes obvious as the recording ends with an abrupt stop. The dark cacophony of orchestral sounds on ‘Reflections On Virtuality’ creates a walling wall of sound without a lead or single focal point. Although it shares a name with the album opener, it is a vastly different image.


The 11-minute ‘Never Ending Journey’ is my favourite track of the album. It combines many elements that as a coastal dweller myself, I can pick out. The incessant chattering of gulls, the sounds of the sea, I can feel and hear the chill of the relentless North wind in the chaotic pipes. Whether it’s actual samples or clever use of instrumentation, this one feels like home.

‘Elevate’ closes the album with the hammering of keys in abandonment, teetering on the edge of a Post Rock crescendo. All I must add is that ‘It Flows Between Us’ was the best album I heard over 2023, it took the remainder of the year to decide that it was deserving of this personal accolade. Then within a few weeks of 2024 Arin’s new album dropped.

‘A Time Given’ opens ‘Nordic Patterns’ and continues his hallmark piano playing, but straight away the use of a throbbing synth and actual percussion, highlights both the familiarities and differences of these two releases. There’s also a more disjointed and experimental feel, like in ‘Leaving Home’ that washes across this soundscape, and fades out into the distance.

The energetic introduction to ‘A Look Back’ has me reminiscing about those euphoric 90s & 00s breakdowns. But the eager anticipation for the beat to begin has been lost to time. Nowadays, I much prefer the placid, slow moving nature of tracks like ‘Flowing River’. A sparse and cold soundscape, but with a touch of warmth from the human contact towards the end.


The temperature stays the same as you can envisage on a song entitled ‘The Chapel’ The large expansive sound of an organ reverberates out into the room, encapsulating the vibe. ‘Skaidi’ also has a very wide, open air feel to it, very sparse in parts but never barren, there is life, but it appears as a long-drawn-out period. The next piece ‘Cut Fjord’ carries this on with distant choral voices, emphasising the vastness, while the keys echo back towards you. 

The warmth and joyfulness on my favourite ‘Homecoming (with Sam Rosenthal)’ changes the mood considerably. Aerating stabs of synthesizers fill the panorama like the mesmerising aurora borealis. This comfort is felt on ‘A Time Spent (Anja)’, there’s clearly a personal connection here, a coming together on the last song of ‘Nordic Patterns’. With ‘Nordic Patterns’ dropping while I compiled my review of ‘It Flows Between Us’ only heightened the process. Listening to albums chronologically has always been an amazing experience, to absorb each individually and hear the progression between each other is something I think is lost to many in today’s playlist-culture. 




 



Interview with Arin Aksberg

by Derek Howie 


Derek Howie. Hi Arin, thanks for joining me to talk on The Vinyl Hole. I recently awarded ‘It Flows Between Us’ the accolade of my favourite release of 2023. As such, I was part way through writing a review for the website when ‘Nordic Patterns’ suddenly dropped, that’s a quick turnaround. Could you tell us about your journey as a musician from before ‘It Flows Between Us’?


Arin Aksberg. Hi, thanks for having me! Really great to hear that "It Flows Between Us" was your favourite. I've always been passionate about music, and it's been a way for me to reflect on things. My first instrument was an electric guitar that I got at around 9 years old, and I was super into punk and rock. I began releasing music on SoundCloud in 2012, with music produced in FL Studio. My biggest idols were Deadmau5 and Swedish House Mafia, so there was a lot of house going on. Then I stumbled upon Jon Hopkins, Nils Frahm, and those guys. 

So, I've been making all sorts of music, and just enjoying it. In 2022, I released "0324" under my own name. That was a bit of a milestone for me, as that sort of started my journey as a musician under my own name. 


DH. Wow! From rock to dance is a familiar path I know well. Which rock bands rocked your world as a 9-year-old, and which ones do today?


AA. It was everything from Green Day to Billy Talent. Before I was introduced to Nirvana and Pearl Jam. My father used to play in a Norwegian death metal band called Slogstorm. And that sound has been a huge influence on my musical taste. I believe Skrillex became the natural way into electronic music. Now my musical taste is sort of everywhere. I'm not just listening to a single genre. Everything from indie folk to R&B. I've been really digging to some "psych" rock and indie rock lately. Oh yeah, and Deftones. Me and my brother use to play their songs on guitar when we meet up.


DH. I think I’ve now heard most of your available online work. With both recent releases, your 2017's ‘Aftermath (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)’ and the 2022 EP ‘0342’ being so rich in piano and other more classical instruments, where do tracks like ‘Elevation/Elevation (Rework)’ fit in?


AA. I still make techno and electronica-based tracks, and I really love to experiment with these genres as well. Lately I've been spending a lot of time creating and designing my own samples. It's really addicting when you suddenly create something that just sounds cool and weird at the same time. I can't really remember where I wanted to go with ‘Elevation’, but I really enjoyed making those two versions. And I just wanted to share them.


DH. It was certainly a pleasant surprise to hear a completely fresh style in your catalogue. I have the upmost respect for genuine genre-switching acts, like Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Ghosts I-VI’ and even Moby's punk album ‘Animal Rights’ wasn’t bad. Is there a noisy, industrial, or punk album waiting to get out as Arin Aksberg?


AA. There might be some day, but not in the near future. I have this death metal/grindcore project with a couple of ideas laying somewhere on my hard drives, but I don't have any plans on releasing any of that ha-ha. In the meantime, I'll stick to putting some distortion on the pads and drones in the "ambient"-tracks. I actually have bigger plans for some more indie folk related music. 


DH. Plenty could be said about your undeniable talents as a musician, but one thing that stood out while listening to both albums on headphones (which I will outline later) was the quality of the recording; that is a skill. Can you tell me more about capturing live instruments, production, mixing, etc?


AA. First of all, thanks for the compliments. I have very little experience with capturing real instruments, and I believe it might just be luck. Up until last year, I used a Blue Ice Snowball, a USB-mic when recording. So, in "0324" I used that one to capture a bowed acoustic guitar.

Then, I bought a Zoom H5, which I used to capture the piano and the field recordings used in "Nordic Patterns". I booked a room at this practice locale in Oslo last summer and spent an evening recording some of the piano parts. And since the rooms were meant for practice, they were really noisy and not optimized for recording. So, I did spend a lot of time perfecting the recordings in the mixing stage. However, I'm really amazed by the quality of the Zoom H5. I just used the built in stereo mics on it, and it sounds really great. As I said I spent a lot of time mixing the recordings, but I didn't really have to do that much with it.


DH. That’s clearly another natural talent you possess, as the challenges of recording an acoustic piano are well documented. As for field recordings, is there a plan to release an album solely of those. I love the contact-microphone stuff, the sound of wind on a wire fencing is mesmeric?


AA. I'll just have to see…. It was fun building up the tracks with field recordings. Especially ‘Skaidi’, which contains recordings of a waterfall up towards Sennalandet.I want to visit my grandmother during the summer and see what I could do with some speakers in the old barn there. Shoot some low frequencies between the walls there.


DH. Quite a bit has already been made about your music and the harshness of your locale in Norway. Now Arin, I know you’re never actually cold, you just can’t have enough layers! LOL. I also live on the coast and love its charms and chaotic nature. I think I can hear and feel there’s more of a connection with the sea in your songs than the land. Is this true? 


AA. Yeah, I love the sea. My grandfather spent a lot of time out on the sea and was an eager fisherman. So, I remember it well when we used to go out fishing. There's something about the smell and movement that I just love. I think it might be a lot about the scenery. There's always so much going on, and the calm soothing sound of the waves. I've been joking with my friends and family that if I didn't have kids I would definitely be working out on the sea.


DH. You captured that sense perfectly on ‘Never Ending Journey’. It may be my imagination, or do I hear waves, wind and actual seagulls, Fulmars perhaps?


AA. That is so fun and interesting to hear. That track was a re-recording of a track with the same name from the "Aftermath"-score. The piano is both slowed and pitched down, with a lot of filtering on it (I can't remember everything I did with it). However, the "waves" is a glitch/bug in one of Logic Pro's reverb plugins, where it seemed to suddenly output white noise of some sort. It sounded cool, so I left it there. The "birds" might also be the result of some filter/noise gate "stuff" going on.But yes when you mention it, the track sounds very coastal. I do love the rumbling sounds created by waves and waterfalls, so it surely influences my music subconsciously.


DH. Releasing material on a label, such as the renowned Projekt Records, is a dream for any musician. Albeit the mandatory pages on the Streaming platforms, where can we buy the other releases that I’ve already mention?


AA. You can find my earlier releases for purchase on platforms such as Amazon. Otherwise, they aren't purchasable. Up until working with Sam and Projekt Records, I was mostly focusing on getting streams mostly because I didn't prioritize selling. 


DH. Yes, streaming has changed music massively for fans, but not so much for artists, in terms of revenue. As your popularity grows your thoughts must have turned to a dedicated online store featuring downloadable back catalogue and future physical releases?


AA. For sure! When I began releasing stuff on Spotify in 2014, it was mostly just to show off. But it sure isn't paying my bills. I don't know how, when, or where. But that back catalogue might come one day


DH. Finally, Arin, thanks again from taking the time to talk to us at The Vinyl Hole and I'll close with on more Q. What does the future hold release wise, will we have to wait 10-months for the next output?


AA. I hope not, ha-ha. It all comes down to focus and time, I guess. One day I might work on some new ideas for more ambient-ish tracks, the next day I might suddenly do a bit more R&B type track. But I aim to do a bit more rhythmic/beat based tracks in the future, and I got a few ideas for future concepts to work on. So, we'll see. 


DH. Well, that’s got me excited as I love both beats and ambient stuff. Thanks again Arin, and we’ll all be waiting expectantly for your next release. Cheers!


AA. Thanks for having me! I'm glad you're excited about the music. Can't wait to share what's next. Take care!


There we have it folks, my interview with the amazingly gifted Arin Aksberg, musician, filmmaker, and generally lovely young man.


You can buy ‘It Flows Between Us’ here and ‘Nordic Patterns’ here from Projekt Records’ Bandcamp page. Then, check out Arin Aksberg own page, here.


Playback Overview 


As I listen to music in a variety of ways, I’d like to accompany these reviews and interviews, with a bit about how I played these albums. Like a vast majority, this is taken under headphones. So, I’m going to outline my optimal headphone set-up, which made Arin’s work really shine when compared to all my more convenient arrangements. 



Helm Audio Bolt & Nura Nuraphones

Even though most new smartphones no longer have the 3.2mm sockets, it is still possible to gain the superior sound of hardwired headphones. This was an issue on my latest phone, but by coupling via the  USB C socket of my Samsung Galaxy A54, one of the many ‘dongle’ digital-to-analogue converters (DAC) now on the market, such as my Helm Audio Bolt DAC/Amp, with the pioneering Nura Nuraphones headphones; it worked a treat.

The Helm Bolt is much more than just an interface. With it’s THX-certified amplification and Sabre DAC chip, the music contained on ‘It Flows Between Us’ and ‘Nordic Patterns’ sounds stark without it, and I’ve done side-by-side comparisons to death, over the last 2-years with all manner of wired and wireless arrangements. There really is no contest, even if you think cables, are a burden!

The sound is also be aided by the Nuraphones’ unique design. In-ear monitors inside the over-ear cups, as well as an automatic EQ software which is personalised to your hearing. This extremely clever technology is maybe why they were bought by Masimo, the parent company to the likes of Bowers & Wilkins, Denon, Marantz and Polk Audio, to name but a few.



USB Audio Player PRO Interface

To exploit the chain even further, I use an additional music player app in the shape of USB Audio Player PRO. As the name suggests, this program is specifically for running USB DACs. The key feature is to bypass the Android audio systems, whose players are often limited to 16-bit/48kHz. This app on the other hand plays natively up to 32-bit/768kHz or any other rate/resolution, the Helm Bolt supports 32-bit/384kHz.


There’s plenty of viewable equipment specifications, as well as all of Arin’s music I’ve mention in the italicised links. Thanks for reading.


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