This bizarre and uncompromising album is my first exposure to Svin’s work, but apparently even those who have heard him before will be a bit startled by what they find here. He began releasing (much more conventional) techno as a teen in 1995 and quickly became kind of a legend in the Scandinavian electronic scene. Then he moved away to NY and Berlin and has not released a new album since 2001. It seems like that hiatus was not spent idly though- Bjorn was far more likely obsessing over where to take his music next. During that process, he seems to have cast a rather wide net for new inspirations, as African music, modern classical, and early electronic music all seem to have found their way into his vision, albeit in unrecognizably mutated forms.
“Browen” is simultaneously excellent and certain to alienate much of Svin’s previous following. While not derivative at all, its most obvious touchstone is Aphex Twin’s “Selected Ambient Works Volume II,” largely because it is queasy, surreal, largely undanceable, filled with unusual textures, and displays a penchant for bizarre, enigmatic song titles (generally onomatopoeic and typographical variations on the letters in the album title). Also, it is very stark and offers little in the way of melody, though there are some unusual hooks and many moments of alien beauty.
Svin is very assured and exacting throughout “Browen,” as the songs have all been pared down to all but the most essential elements: lurching, metallic rhythms and very artificial-sounding and often dissonantly harmonized synthesizers (he prefers vintage analog gear to computers). Despite that, he seems to have an intuitive understanding of how far he push people, making sure to at least include a somewhat thumping (if sometimes slowed-down) beat in his more outré moments to give listeners something to grab ahold of (such as in “ROwmOR”). Yet there are also some moments of sublime ambience scattered throughout that betray unexpected flickers of warmth. If I have one complaint about the album, it is that those flickers of warmth are too infrequent, but the artificial, metallic, and somewhat cold feel of the album makes it feel very futuristic. And if this is how music will sound in the future, that will be perfectly fine by me.
(Aside: there are three bonus tracks attached to the album that harken back to Svin’s earlier sound- they’re pretty enjoyable too (especially the slamming “Lad os ga”) but not as unique as the actual album tracks. Also, the video for the very minimal “rOOn” is a pretty amazing piece of art in its own right.) 9/10 -- Anthony D'Amico (2 June, 2010)