Skip to main content

BardSpec - Hydrogen album review

Enslaved co-founder fires up his cosmic synth generator

Cover art for BardSpec - Hydrogen album

Not content with dazzling the underground with Enslaved, Ivar Bjørnson has been insanely busy lately. In keeping with detours like Trinacria and Skuggsjá, BardSpec is a leap away from his day job, but his delight at the limitless possibilities of musical expression remains omnipresent. Superficially, this is a wistful paean to the atmospheric achievements of electronic pioneers like Tangerine Dream and Cluster, replete with shimmering walls of old-school synths and a persistent motorik pulse that’s equal parts Kraftwerk and Neu! Unlike a lot of similarly inclined projects, however, the extended pieces onHydrogen sound neither retro nor tethered to someone else’s blueprint. Bone is a languorous, sunlit skitter across frozen wastes, at times almost ephemeral in its ambient drift but never settling into moribund repetition. Elsewhere, 12-minute closer Salt sounds like minimalist techno filtered through a kaleidoscopic, prog rock prism, with cavernous reverb softening the blow of its dense, underlying melancholy. An enthralling trip and another triumph for the bearded wonder.

Dom Lawson has been writing for Hammer and Prog for 14 intermittently enjoyable years and is extremely fond of heavy metal, progressive rock, coffee and snooker. He listens to more music than you. And then writes about it.