Tobias Hellkvist – Vesterhavet (Extended)

In Denmark, the North Sea has two names: Nordsøen (the North Sea) or Vesterhavet (the West Sea). Opting for the latter in naming this serene record, Copenhagen-based ambienteer Tobias Hellkvist emphasises a relative geographical orientation. All the better to frame a gesture of appreciation; this extended reissue of a digital-only release from last year has the potential, in all its warmth and patience, to tell of a great personal fondness for these salty waters.

No doubt a North Sea fisherman has a good fund of hair-raising tales about life at sea. Yet, for most of us who have only occasionally crossed the North Sea or beheld it from the coast, the generally calm tone of this music is probably appropriate. For me, it brought back a good memory of travelling by ferry from Harwich to Esbjerg: the water scarcely stirred for the entire journey.

These arrangements lend themselves easily to marine metaphor. There are quietly rippling, lapping layers on the surface and ever a murk beneath, with less distinct textures. Each piece drones on, ageless, buffeted into graceful changes by forces that one might imagine are meteorological. Most of all, the style reflects the idea of the sea as a great, ancient space of relations; always the same on the macro level and always different on the micro level. Always a nagivation of slow, inscrutable, chaotic difference. Like all natural motion, always rich with possibilities.

The inhuman landscape and its complex temporality make a versatile analogy, since music never speaks for itself. In this case, Hellkvist’s North (or West) Sea theme is convincing and handsome. A recommended ambient release of great depth.