- It's natural to expect an album to unfold with a certain logic, if not a narrative arc. 1520, the second proper LP from Swedish duo Ulwhednar (Abdulla Rashim and Varg), stubbornly rejects that idea. Yes, these seven tracks of deep, full-immersion techno share a doomy tone and sonic character—they are raw and filthy, woody and tribal—but otherwise they operate as self-contained units. The swirling ambient fog of "Midvinter" is the parting shot you might expect, but otherwise, from the confrontational techno of "Stortorget" to the epic, ear-splintering drone-piece "Askan Från Bålet," these tracks seem to jostle against one another in a forbidding jumble.
As you absorb 1520, however, that begins to feel deliberate. Ulwhednar seem to be evoking a world without order. In the humid "Begravd Under Is," whose tuned-drums and slippery basslines create layers of counterpointed rhythm, or the blasted "Stortorget," a peak-hour techno track stripped to its skeleton and subject to howling nuclear winds, 1520 reaches back to the primordial swamp and forward to a post-apocalyptic future. Humanity and civilisation are notable by their absence. The landscape here is deserted, mysterious, naturally chaotic.
Far from being just another dour techno record, 1520 feels like a fitting soundtrack for a world that, politically and ecologically, is careening towards disaster. There is enough grandeur and finessed complexity here to suggest that 1520 was conceived as an artwork rather than a bunch of club tracks. The close, sometimes ambiguous detail is incredible. Is there really a synth-string motif buried in the mix on "Begravd Under Is," or is it some sort of auditory hallucination created by its sizzling stratum of bass, reverb and distortion? Likewise, the way the bone-dry tribal rhythms of "De 92 Vita Stenarna" are subtly mutated across its six minutes is a masterclass in patient control. There is a lot of techno around that likes to present itself as serious and high-minded in its intent and execution, but this is the real deal, and it's exhilarating.
01. Arke fiene
03. Kättarens dom
04. Askan från bålet
05. Begravd under is
06. De 92 vita stenarna