Subtracted Soundscapes – Spotted Peccary Music SPM-4203
“I am surprised by how much more I prefer these new versions on Subtracted Soundscapes to the originals. I guess they attune better to my current state of mind. I hope this music can evoke similar feelings in the listener.”
1. About the album Subtracted Soundscapes
On Subtracted Soundscapes, Johan Agebjörn revisits past work with a new compositional mien: a focus on calmness and serenity. Agebjörn selected and reworked eight pieces from across his career into something warmer and calmer than the originals—but no less moving and profound. Unlike their original versions, these “subtracted” updates are entirely beatless; the sonic threads of the originals are unraveled and rewoven, he shares that “subtracted here means that I’ve taken away elements from the original versions… I went back to the original files of some of my music from between 2004 and 2017 and started to “subtract” the music by removing the beats and other elements from the tracks, only leaving the key elements of the music, and also working with different combinations of lowpass-filtering, slowing down, adding reverb, and mixing the music differently, all with a wish to attain some sort of calmness and warmth.
“Recently, I was listening to my 2008 album Mossebo in the car, and I thought “hey, I want to hear these tracks without beats!” I have had a period of listening a lot to beatless ambient lately, typically right after putting my youngest daughter to sleep, calming down after work and family life.”
“I am surprised by how much more I prefer these new versions to the originals. I guess they at tune better to my current state of mind. Therefore, I hope this music can evoke similar feelings in the listener.”
2. The tracks
Starting with a piano endlessly cycling through five…
…notes, slowly adding glowing synthesizers with interesting accents, and a sampled ethereal voice, the soothing soaring feeling of the album is established here. “Four Hours To Karhumäki (Subtracted Version)” (5:28) comes originally from We Never Came To The White Sea (SPM-3301). Performed by Johan Agebjörn and Mikael Ögren, who were joined by Rolf Ellmer for the compositional credits. Karhumäki (in Russian known as Медвежьегорск) is an industrial city in Russian Carelia.
Composed and performed by Johan Agebjörn, “Swimming Through the Blue Lagoon (Subtracted Version)” (5:08) was released originally on The Mountain Lake (LSM19), sends us deeper into the atmosphere, synthesizers and a flickering sampled voice singing intonations. Thinking about the title puts me in the sea, the music puts me in the sky, the voice puts me in heaven. “Ambient Computer Dance (Subtracted Version)” (5:31) originally on Mossebo (SPM-4201), the feeling is slow and graceful.
Vyartsilya is a Russian border checkpoint used by millions each year to visit Finland, “As I Passed the Vyartsilya Border Crossing (Subtracted Version)” (7:43) was originally released on We Never Came To The White Sea (SPM-3301). I hear layers of alternating ambient vocalisms by Anneli Andersson and melodic electronics, gentle and conducive to your own thoughts supported by the crisp clear beat and motion of the music constantly building and growing. This new version also uses a synthetic voice as a marching ostinato. When the melody comes in, it is both alien and familiar: the major key refrain of adventure wrapped anew in sterling pearlescence. The original video version is a view from the train passing through the industrial area which invokes memories of travel created by the glimpses through the window.
The next track begins with lingering intimate…
…romantic whispers, slowly blossoming into a meditation on blissful dreamscapes eventually climaxing in a nocturnal thunderclap, “Sleep In My Arms (Subtracted Version)” (5:41) originally on Sally Shapiro: Disco Romance also appearing on Sally Shapiro: Remix Romance Vol. 1, as well as the anthology Various Artists: Soundcolours pres. Chilltronica – A Definition. This one is performed by Johan Agebjörn for the Sally Shapiro project; the songwriters are Erik Van Den Broek and Agebjörn.
“Dulciter Somni (Subtracted Version)” (5:00) was originally on Mossebo (SPM-4201). Performed by Johan Agebjörn and Lisa Barra, composed by Johan Agebjörn and Oskar Macgregor, this sweet sleepy one always gets me right in the heart. The singer is Lisa Barra from Gothenburg, Sweden. She brings to my mind the hidden colors in a night winter sky. Continuing, “Siberian Train Part II (Subtracted Version)” (7:52) was also originally on Mossebo (SPM-4201). Agebjörn shares his approach to the technical aspects, “if I had long samples that I wanted to use I had to play them from cassette live during the recording, such as the sampled speech on “Siberian Train.” There is an ominous glowing foundation with some wandering soaring tones and melancholic suspense, blending field recordings made on a train, you can hear the tracks rattling and rumbling below with occasional bells from road crossings flying past.
Subtracted Soundscapes concludes with “Zero Gravitation (Subtracted Version)” (9:59) originally on Various Artists: Soundcolours pres. Chilltronica – A Definition. The sensation experienced by this listener is that outer space is a very cold and beautiful place where slow and glowing colors hoover and glide about.
Johan Agebjörn has been active in creating and producing music for over 20 years, he lives in Lund, Sweden, where he is a psychologist and a father. One musical interest is ambient with a rich atmosphere with a distinct forward motion into a bold sci-fi kind of direction. His disco music is another musical interest, especially as part of the project Sally Shapiro. Sally Shapiro is mainly a ”neo-italo disco” project consisting of a female singer (whose real name remains a secret) with Agebjörn acting as a composer and producer.
His releases on Spotted Peccary Music include Mossebo (originally on Lotus Spike 2008 and remastered with SPM in 2019), The Mountain Lake (2011), followed by a couple of collaborations with Mikael Ögren, We Never Came to the White Sea (2017) and Artefact (2021) with the related EP Space Travel.
4. Where to buy the album Subtracted Soundscapes?
Written by Robin James, July 15th, 2023