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Elias Krantz
Lifelines Matthew Horton , September 1st, 2016 13:39

For someone who paints himself as a minimalist, Elias Krantz doesn't half have a lot going on. The Swedish composer's third album – following 2007's Island Rock and 2011's Night Ice – thinks big, occasionally overwhelming with layers of noise, offering a maximal experience for the senses. Yeah, man.

Of course, minimalism is as much about the process as the effect and Krantz locks into patterns of harmony and tempo, forever returning to the mean, whatever flights of fancy Lifelines finds itself embarking on. It's a piece that's supposed to be taken whole, although necessarily divided into two movements to suit the vinyl format it's apparently intended for, and floats around a loose concept: life, time, the dreams and patterns we weave. Loose is the word. That's the beauty of instrumental music, isn't it? A vehicle for whatever you want it to be.

The journey Lifelines charts is rich and absorbing, with an entertaining disregard for genre and style. After all, 'minimalism' will never quite pinpoint the sound you're getting, and Krantz won't be be nailed down either. 'Patchwork', side one, starts off all muscle, somewhere around the avant edges of new wave, its pummelling beats and jerky bass signature the kind of sound These New Puritans aim for when they get stressed. The baton passes to gothic organ then honking sax and washes of electronic effects, somewhere around Melt Yourself Down or The Comet Is Coming territory, all that darkness gone space-jazz supernova. And so on. It's not long before a massive, brassy, two-note orchestral riff stomps in and sweeps the lot away; a delirious, even catchy moment that should disorientate but just feels like a load of fun.

The phases keep on shifting, with a heat haze of treated guitar rising from all this destruction, then marimba and horns jolting through the dream sequence. 'Patchwork' spends its second 10 minutes recalling, in turn, Kieran Hebden, Brian May and Rotary Connection as Krantz tries his hand at glitch, wormy guitar solos and blaring, psych-soul processionals, coming off life-affirming in the midst of all this indecision. It's an adventure if nothing else.

The flipside, 'On Time', is a little more relaxed, spending a couple of minutes tuning up with a Terry Riley-esque drone, then letting a syncopated beat slowly take shape. There's a creeping, echoing guitar riff before the whole track's flooded with colour, sun-drenched sax swaying in a hammock, catching rays like Brian Eno's 'Deep Blue Day'. It's the nearest thing Lifelines gets to a chorus, Krantz returning to that easy sax over the next few minutes, every time he gets bored with the low rumble of industrial machinery that fills the gaps. Later on, he exercises the minimalist tendencies we were promised with a chiming, staccato synth melody that's pure Steve Reich, dancing like 'Electric Counterpoint', but he still can't resist looping in fuzzy guitar and a sneaky burst of sax, whispers of jazz-rock never far from the surface.

Lifelines' flightiness is to its benefit and detriment - a disadvantage because it denies the focus that would make Krantz a more impressive composer, but a bonus for the skills he gets to display, the joy he puts across. Less for the aesthetes, more for the haphazard, this is a suite that gets there the long way round.