The understated instrumentals of Tralfamadore (2015) are melodic and mesmerising. The spaces between say as much as the notes. The album has an extraordinary atmosphere; an eerie, alien, dark quality that’s neither cold nor overly grim which is an emotional balancing act difficult to strike in any genre.
artist: Tom Ståle Engebretsen
country of origin: Norway
style(s): electronica, cinematic, drone, psyambient, art rock
decades active: 2010's
essential releases (as Elrox):
Tralfamadore (2015, Tape The Sound)
Atmosphere (2017, Tape The Sound)
The Labyrinth ep (2017, Tape The Sound)
Reviewed by Mike G
The multi-talented Norwegian Tom Ståle Engebretsen (aka Elrox aka Warpness) came to making music fairly late in his career, starting to compose in 2011 after spending a long period as an artist, photographer and radio programmer. His online persona suggests a passionate, generous and kooky character and it's easy to love his unpretentious enthusiasm for his art. His small body of electronica to date is highly diverse - everything from proggy electro-rock to vocal synthpop to cinematic ambience and deep drone.
Several of his releases are exceptionally good. Engebretsen says his inspirations include Vangelis and Tangerine Dream but he often doesn't sound like either of them. In fact at his best I can’t think of obvious comparisons to any other artist.
Tralfamadore (2015) is his third album as Elrox and is based on writer Kurt Vonnegut's insanely fragmented and fantastically strange 1969 sci-fi anti-war novel Slaughterhouse Five. Thematically, the album concerns the portion of the novel where WWII survivor Billy Pilgrim is abducted by aliens and taken to the planet of the album's title. The understated instrumentals are melodic and mesmerising. The spaces between say as much as the notes. The album has an extraordinary atmosphere; an eerie, alien, dark quality that’s neither cold nor overly grim which is an emotional balancing act difficult to strike in any genre. Many of the textures sound like they come from samples of gongs and bells that have been filtered, sustained and otherwise manipulated in a variety of ways. There are moments of awe-inspiring beauty, like the rising cloud-like chords on “Flying Saucer” and the celestial guitar notes of the title track. Tralfamadore is an original take on a one-of-a-kind work of literature and on its own terms a superb and distinctive work of atmospheric electronica.
The four-track ep The Labyrinth (2017) - this time recorded under his Warpness moniker - occupies the same eerie space as Tralfamadore and is equally as compelling. It has a bit more of an industrial clang and some of its cuts have more developed beats, evoking a future-noirish soundtrack for some imagined dystopian film. Very different from both of those and also released under his Warpness banner isAtmosphere (2017), an album of haunting, beatless psychedelic ambience with gorgeous extended harmonic drones. It's first class, even though it's less distinctive than his other two releases and occasionally echoes the work of others, specifically Eastern spacemusic master David Parsons and early Tangerine Dream.