Boomkat Product Review:
Hallucinatory dark ambient drones from the master himself, 'Compositions' harks back to Deathprod's legendary 'Treetop Drive', extending a monochromatic, widescreen view of his frozen musical doomscape. Unmissable.
Considering so many producers have attempted to mimic Sten's stoic, industrial ambient mode, very few have come within spitting distance of the Norwegian veteran. 'Sow Your Gold In The White Foliated Earth' felt like a flex - a way to acknowledge the current obsession with xenharmonic tuning and Medieval instrumentation while simultaneously advancing the discourse a few decades. And he could have rested on his laurels for a while, but 'Compositions' re-affirms Sten's status, proving his well-worn dark ambient framework is still somehow revolutionary, and still completely unmatched. It's the proper follow-up to 2019's noisy "OCCULTING DISK", but sounds spiritually more connected to "Treetop Drive", his 1994 debut that crossed electronic minimalism with unmistakably Lynchian atmospheres. 'Compositions' has a familiar pace - long, reverberating wails, punctuated by silence - but simultaneously drags Sten's craft into a new era.
Always challenging the way we listen, Sten assembles the album chronologically, so we get to hear his thought process as he writes. The noise of his arsenal of machines - his "Audio Virus" - is also audible in each empty crack, so that the silences are just as rich as the synthetic throbs and piercing drones. Basically we're invited to witness an extended moment in Sten's studio, watching him work as a craftsman with his chain of sound generators and archaic FX boxes. Sten has been developing his studio since 1991, and seems to have avoided any hip gear trends completely, so there are few obvious sonic reference points you can spot - there's no placeable modular granulations or Ableton-friendly VST effects to be seen.
Acknowledging how ubiquitous 'dark ambient' sounds are in streaming television and movie soundtracks, artists have had to work harder to avoid the tools and memes of commerce in an attempt to create sonic landscapes that feel physically unsettling as the world teeters into grey-hued dystopia. Sten's sounds are genuinely foreboding: gloomy microtonal chords that echo into negative space, rasping synth groans scraping against the consciousness, syrupy bass tones that avoid any comparison with hammy doom metal tropes. His electronic boxes heave, cough and splutter with the unstable character of prized acoustic instruments, and you're left with the feeling that even if another musician entered Sten's studio for an evening or two, they wouldn't be able to come up with nearly the same expression. We get to witness a symbiotic relationship between man and machine that's many paces from the world of algorithms and AI. And if that isn't relevant right now - well, we don't know what to tell ya.