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“Animus Retinentia” Shows Peter Bjärgö’s Mastery of the Melancholic

Animus Retinentia is the third solo album from Peter Bjärgö, a musician perhaps better known for his work with medieval-influenced Arcana and the martial industrial project Sophia. Unlike with Arcana and Sophia, which are both very much focused on crafting specific atmospheres, with his solo work, Bjärgö is less driven by the dictates of genre. It’s here that his goth and ethereal pop influences come to the fore. The result is a sound that draws much from the dreamy alternative pop of Robin Guthrie and Harold Budd, but with a deeply bleak and melancholic worldview, and it wouldn’t sound out-of-place amongst the Projekt bands of the nineties.

Bjärgö is a master at carefully crafting layers of instrumentation so that there is depth and intricacy to the sound throughout. Layers of gentle guitar and piano are mixed with subtle synth and string textures. His deep, chanting style of singing is already familiar from his work with Arcana. Unlike on A Wave of Bitterness, which was very much driven along by its dense, exotic rhythms, the drums on Animus Retinentia are limited to only a few tracks, and even then are somewhat restrained. The freedom to move outside his usual genres is reflected particularly in the gentle IDM-style fractured percussion that he introduces with in “Where Night Is Eternal” and “From Agony,” as well as a bit of electroacoustic sound manipulation in the dreamy “Memories.”

Peter Bjärgö

Similarly to Arcana’s As Bright as a Thousand Suns, Bjärgö has gone for a particularly languid sound on this album, and the whole thing is awash with a gray, autumnal mood. There’s more than a hint of the mysterious melancholy of Angelo Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks soundtrack in tracks such as “As Rain Falls.” The two tracks that pursue a bolder and more direct style, “To Replace My Sadness” and “From Agony,” have insistent rhythms accentuated with staccato strings. These bring a dramatic, cinematic edge to the album. As with his previous album, The Architecture of Melancholy, Bjärgö ends the album with “Sleep Dep.Loop2”—an unsettling loop-based ambient piece which, as the name suggests, conjures feelings of the disorientating effects of sleep deprivation.

While it’s not a radical departure from his previous album, there are enough new elements on Animus Retinientia to make it a valuable addition to Bjärgö’s catalogue. The inclusion of a couple of bolder tracks among the languid atmospheres gives the album the variety it needs to stay engaging, and Bjärgö’s skillful musicianship is always a pleasure to hear.

Track List:

01) You Let the Light Shine Through
02) Stillhet
03) To Replace My Sadness
04) Grains
05) Where Night Is Eternal
06) As Rain Falls
07) Memories
08) Transcend Time
09) Memories II
10) From Agony
11) Sleep Dep.Loop2

Written by: Colin Z. Robertson
Label: Cyclic Law (Germany) / 90th Cycle / CD
Dark Ambient / Neoclassical