The glaciation and the thaw

interview by Matteo Meda

What does the word Pjusk means? It's not a Norwegian word, is it?
It is indeed a Norwegian word that has several meanings. Used as a verb, it is used by teenage girls to communicate the meaning of being cuddly. It is quite common to find tweets by young girls: “Somebody please “pjusk” my back etc”. It is also used a an adjective. I am feeling a bit pjusk today, meaning that the person is perhaps feeling blue or a bit down. We wanted to use a word that didn't instantly reek of electronic music, if you get my drift. No references to space, inventions and technology. We wanted the title to be open for interpretation - a clean slate, so to speak - although Norwegians tend to smile when they hear the name of the project. Visually it was also quite nice - short and precise. The word has also some kind of east-european ring to it?

I readed you sometimes use a self-created language for your work's titles... Is it true?
We are always using Norwegian words, the exception being our collaboration with Sleep Orchestra. The titles for that album is some kind of mix between anagrams and .. I think you have to ask Christopher how he came up with those titles. But we are quite stubborn about using the Norwegian language for our Pjusk releases - it is an intrinsic part of the project.

2014 has been such a great year for you. Firts, the work with Sleep Orchestra, and then “Solstov”, in my opinion probably your best thing to date. How has this two projects developed?
Well, we met all our collaborators on “Solstøv” in Barcelona at the Storung Festival 2012. The festival, although small, has a great line-up with interesting artists that really inspired us. We got along really well with Christopher Pegg, Yui Onodera and Eugenio Caria (SaffronKeira) and decided that we really should try to do something together. Chris was eager and bascially threw 10 tracks at us from the very start and we felt that we just had to respond. So we quickly came to realise that we had so much material, more than we wanted for our 12k-release, that we had to try to create a second release focusing on this collaboration only (Pjusk / Sleep Orchestra). So we did that. What Chris brought to the table, was a a dense focus on drones and moving soundscapes, quite dark at times but with beatiful motifs that we could elaborate on. Quite a natural match. We wouldn't say that we took too many chances on that album though - but the process evolved quite naturally and we are happy about the final result. "Solstøv" was a longer process which involved a lot of testing and experimentation. We knew we wanted to use the trumpet as a starting point and by wonderful coincidence Jostein got a new neighbour that happened to be a seasoned jazz trumpet player. So we started sending him early versions of our tracks (I think we only sent him 3 tracks, to be honest) - and he improvised a lot, doing several takes for each track. By the end of our sessions, we basically had a lot to work with and we then sent the best takes to our good friend Taylor to do his Kyma magic.

Thinking about the almost-simultaneous release of both the albums, I guess have you worked on them more or less during the same period, haven't you?

Yes, but we have to admit that “Drowning in the sky” was something that fell into place quite quickly. I think we acutally spent one weekend at the Valldal cabin and basically did the majority of the album (the groundwork, that is) during that visit. It must be said that we by then already had several tracks nearly completed.

There is also a track with Sleep Orchestra in Solstov, the first one and one of my favourite. Does it come from some “Drowning In The Sky” sessions?
Yes, that is correct. Although we first set out to find tracks for our 12k release. We originally intended using two tracks, but we abandoned that thought when all collaboration tracks turned out to be album candidates.

While “Drowning In The Sky” and “Solstov” are certainly two very different works, I noted the “organic” approach (it's say: warmer environmental sound, more human climate also with real instruments, and quite no more digital/glitch remnants) you experimented for the first reflected a lot in the second too... Do you think so too?
I think you are only partly correct. "Sart" (our debut on 12k) actually featured a lot of guitar on several tracks (performed by our friend Tor Anders Voldsund). We also had tracks featuring our friend Erik Manshaus on flute, so I would say that we actually strayed more away from this organic approach on both "Sval" and "Tele", and somewhat returned on "Solstøv". "Sart" also had a lot of vinyl and tape effects that really had no digital origins whatsoever in addition to a really focused noise concept (we probably had a crush on noise for that album). I remember recording, while visiting New York, a really fascinating fan in my hotel room - the fan had an organic, human-like presence and of course we used that sound a lot on "Sart". The first track on "Sart", also has a lot of sounds from New York, I vividly remember recording while walking the streets.

I really noted this kind of process in the way your music developed during the years... It's say: thinking to “Sval” and “Sart”, you were pretty into digital sound-sculptures! At that time, how did you approach to compose your music and build up your works?
I think we always have worked pretty much the same for all our albums. Actually I think the change is coming now, to be honest. We are pushing into a much more live oriented and improv way of creating music - this is motivated by the fact that we want a correspondence between our studio work and our live performances. We are also recording more than we used to. Playing instruments and creating sounds in the old-fashioned way. What I think you are referring to, is actually not working method, but mindset. Of course that has changed throughout the years. We have slowly been moving into more experimental landscapes and also realised what kind of audio that are most rewarding to be working with. Sort of what kind of material that has a huge return on investment.

And what or who were, at the beginning, your “models”?
We started out being big Biosphere and Future Sound of London fans - although I think we sonically have moved quite away from those projects.

Then, slowly, something changed in the way you approached and produced your music... If you actually agree, how did this process take shape? What elements eventually changed?
What changed, was our approach to music making - and then mostly our mind sets. I think we sort of managed to distill our sonic palette and refine it, somehow. Also the creative process is never static, it is always evolving into new territories.

In this “path”, what role did “Tele” play? Was ice really the main topic of that album?
When we got the request from Alessandro (Glacial Movements) to do an album for the label, it fell into place quite naturally. We had just finished “Sval” which was an album focusing on nature (Norwegian nature in particular) so “Tele” was really just a deeper visit to the same landscapes we already had ventured within. Sort of zooming in even more - narrowing it down to an even closer look. We had also a great contact in Oslo that was really into modular synthesis - Frodebeats - (he has done several sound design releases) and we got a lot of great analogue sounds from him for the album. And of course we have to mention Joe Scarffe that provided us with some terrific glacier sounds. The main topic was probably not ice, but man vs nature. The hard rock vs. soft tissue.

I think your instrumentation improved and developed a lot from 2007 to now... At that time, I imagine you working only with laptops, were you? And now, what instruments are you mainly using?
Computers have always played an important role in our music creation, and still do. None of us are great instrumentalists so we use other musicians quite extensively to get the sound we’re looking for. We often present a sketch or concept to one or several of the musicians we use and have them record something with their preferred instrument, and then we work with the recorded material. Molding it into the Pjusk realm so to speak. As said, on Sart we used a lot of guitar, and we’re also quite fond of piano and some wind instruments. We think Solstøv also shows that the trumpet is particularly well suited for our sound.

In particular, it seems you researched a lot in your sampling technique – something 12k artists seem to like very much! Does the sampler play an important role in your music?
Sampling technique is always evolving. We are constantly trying to think of different ways we can capture great sounds and noises, be it by traditional mic recordings, to contact mic’s and hydrophones, or by utilizing different devices or tools to generate sound from the same object or situation. Pretty standard stuff really for sound artists in our genre. We also continuously try out new ways to process audio to create quality sounds and soundscapes to suit our music. As for the sampler in the context of it being the traditional understanding of the instrument, that is not important anymore. The important thing is to get the sound sounding like we feel it should sound, regardless of the medium it is being played from. Sometimes we use standard hard disk recording in our DAW of choice, and other times we use a sampler because the traditional way of playing a sample from a sampler instrument gives us the effect we’re looking for.

As you are playing it today, using a lot the so-called environmental sounds, we can talk about your music as a particular form of ambient music... Do you like and agree with this definition?
Yes, why not. We are clearly rooted within the ambient genre, although I hope to think that we are pushing that definition somewhat. Ambient minimalism, experimental ambient - but ambient is probably the common denominator for what we do.

Most of the musicians coming from digital-process and microsound areas, got closer and closer to organic sounds during the last years as you did – for example, your label-boss Taylor Deupree. Do you think there's a particolar reason behind this perpetual mutation?
That question is particularly interesting because you are absolutely true - and it suddenly dawned on us as well. We have several explanations that we think are valid. Perhaps the first and most important reason is that organic sounds tend to convey a tapestry of emotions. It is about interpretation, performance, organic qualities, human nature etc. We are very fond of synthesizers and that particular expression, but organic sounds provide us a different diving angle into our creative process. And of course, we have just started going down that road. Our next album will most likely feature more musicians - drums/percussion, different kind of brass instruments and piano. So perhaps we will end up doing Country & Western - ambient style ? Who knows.

Talking a bit about you, how and where did you start Pjusk?
We started Pjusk in Bergen, Norway. In the very initial period of the project, we actually wanted the project to be aimed at audiovisual performances, so we had a third member, Stig Bø, a visual designer who also did our terrific logo. But being a visual designer teamed up with two music guys can be awfully quiet - and it probably also really boring - so we decided that we should concentrate our creating music and do the visual performance at a later stage. And actually we are slowly coming back to that concept now - perhaps in a desperate attempt to create something more out of a live performance than just staring into our screens.

I know you've produced and played very different music in the past – I'm mainly taking in mind Jostein's Circular and Neural Network experiences. Does a link between those old projects and Pjusk exist?
We have tried to keep those projects apart, really. But of course there are musical links between them. Circular is alive and kicking and on the French label Ultimae - doing ambient with a more commercial twist, we would say.

And nowadays, are you working on some solo projects too or are you just concentrating on Pjusk?
Well, since you are asking, the two of us are actually working on a new project that we hope will be more uptempo and percussion based called Jester Union - an anagram of our forenames. We haven't quite landed our style yet, it is extremely important for us that we stand out with some kind of uniqueness in a wilderness of genres and projects. But other than that, we are just concentrating on Pjusk.

12k has been producing some of the best experimental works since the beginning of 2000 years. During this last years, it seems to be living one of its best moments, thanks also to the “ambient” conversion we talked about before. Your long-time relationship with this label suggest that you fit very well with them. Am I right? What do you think of Taylor and 12k's catalogue?
We are extremely fond of Taylor and his label. He is a true professional and we feel we have a natural home in 12k. The label and its music is truly inspiring.

Moreover, in the last years you experienced also two other label I'm really “in love” with: Dronarivm and Glacial Movements. What can you tell about them?
Not much to tell really. Great labels by great people. Before we released any music on these labels, they were pretty much unknown to us. We had already done some pieces for/with Bartosz Dziadosz (Pleq) and I think we were introduced to Dronarivm when Bartosz approached us in regards to a piece of music for the Aquarius compilation. Glacial Movements were also unknown to us at the time Alessandro contacted us about releasing what would come to be the “Tele” album. After realising that by releasing an album on Glacial Movements we would be in the company of Loscil and Bvdub we didn’t hesitate much.

How do you build up your live sets? Do you usually implement some visual elements too?
We have used a fairly simple and basic setup around two laptops, or one laptop and an iPad, with some sort of backbone for each of our tracks together with sounds and loops used for some improvisation on top. We’re planning for more live improvisation and other live musicians for live events in the future. We have used some visuals, but so far this has not had too much focus.

What other projects are you working on?
No other projects, but lots of collaborations with other artists around the world. Some quite known and some less. The important bit is the quality of our musical dialogue. Ah. Not true. We are working on our uptempo project “Jester Union”. Stay tuned. Somewhere, sometime in summertime.


Sart (12k, 2007)
Sval (12k, 2010)
Tele (Glacial Movements, 2012)
Drowning In The Sky (with Sleep Orchestra, Dronarivm, 2014)
Solstøv(12k, 2014)
NEURAL NETWORK (CD)(Jostein Dahl Gjelsvik, Lars Kristian Sande, Oddgeir Hvidsten)
Brain-State-In-A-Box (Origo Sound, 1994)
Modernité (Origo Sound, 1995)
CIRCULAR (CD & LP)(Jostein Dahl Gjelsvik & Bjarte Andreassen)
Nanotopia (Origo Sound, 1997)
Divergent (Beatservice, 1999)
Glass Darkly (Origo Sound, 2004)
Substans (Ultimae, 2009)
Nordic Circles | Live Nuit Hypnotique #4 (live, Ultimae, 2013)
Moon Pool (Ultimae, 2014)
Pietra miliare
Consigliato da OR

Pjusk su Ondarock

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