Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Sven Grunberg - Hingus

Sven Grunberg

Released 1981 on Melodyia
Reviewed by aether, 27/08/2013ce

It's easy these days to believe one's heard everything that 'the Berlin school' of synthesizer music (and acts inspired by it) had to offer. Such was my own mind set, until it was totally blown apart by this awe-inspiring masterpiece of Russian cosmic electronic music (released in 1981 on the state-sponsored Melodyia label).

Sven Grunberg was a keyboardist from Estonia, who played with Mess, perhaps the most well known of the (admittedly small set) of Russian/Eastern Bloc 1970's progressive rock acts. "Hingus" was his first solo effort and is an icy, spaced out mantra of glassy Solina synthesizers, ominous organs, and nimble xylophones runs.

The four part epic, "Hingus" begins with ritualistic 'opening of the gates' planet-sized organ chords, huge icy, echoed synthesizers screaming from within - think "In den Garten..." or Alpha Centauri-era Tange. Massive left-hand droning organ chords shift like tectonic plates until the the glassy vibes creep in and low-key percussion throbs - the music has a real searching quality and the jazz-like instrumentation of the vibes gives the music a mellow (almost folk-like at times) quality missing from much electronic music.

A throbbing drone and we are entering a sort of Rubicon territory of space exploration, wisps of Solina drifting until the whole thing comes to a halt, hanging in deep space, as more synth doodling passes by like icy breezes, and undulating organ chords move the music ever onward.

Tentative, exploratory keyboards open up the next movement, joined by billowing clouds of organ and a planet-shaking thrum of electronic timbre. Huge jolts propel the listener forward, a turbulent oceanic sway of keyboards, until calm is restored again by meditative Rhodes piano and twinkling electronics.

Harp crescendos introduce the next movement - the themes remain constant and re-affirmed through each movement but the use of acoustic instrumentation. Rhodes and subtle percussion give the LP a texture not often heard or felt in electronic synthesizer music(s).

Grunberg was an exponent of World music and, to my mind, one of the few musicians to have successfully incorporated elements of Oriental ethnological music forms into the wider sphere of synthesizer-based electronic music. Not overtly present in Hingus, these elements would become progressively more present in his subsequent LPs like "Om" and "Milarepa."

Side 2 contains "Teekond" and the huge near-18 minute "Valgusois."

A slow march time theme of the "Rick Wright Shine-On 6-9" kind begins the slow ritual of "Teekond" as gaseous string synthesizer form a sort of quasi-choral backdrop, adding a beautiful grain to the music.A lovely Cluster-plod is central to this track as layer upon layer of descending synthesizer harmony is added.

the 17:50 seconds of "Valgusois" could well be the LP's high point as the soundtrack to a feverish night terror in the timeless void of space.

A buzzing, warbling keyboard line enters out of the blackness, an insistent wasp-like pattern, is curled around more distant lines of echoed synth until a very Cluster-like mysterious/charming bass line cuts in, a semi-Eastern melody laced around it - sort of early Human League/Gary Numan meets Mort Garson! As quickly as it began this stops, as an 'ice-like claws down your spine' electronic phantom is released, and the tune re-enters.

This all ends up in some chaotic tumult of electronic malfunctioning, degenerating into electronic throbs and a knife-edge synth line that gives the track a real febrile quality and out of this another glistening arpeggio emerges. Sounds like a lot of electronic records I know but you really have to listen to this one to give it the attention it deserves. 10 minutes of tranced out electronic pulsing follows, as rubbery electronic tentacles of sound reach out of the mix and disappear back into it.

Distilling itself down into a ghostly numinous throb, the finale arrives in a blisteringly uplifting, revelatory chorus of rubbery synth-bass and cosmos-spanning super-chords that you'd have to be churlish not to be affected by (even though notes from the "Star Trek" theme seem to be present!)

Fans of Rainy Season, Mort Garson, Bernard Sjazner's Zed, Sinoia Caves, Cluster, Esa Kotilainen, Michael Stearns, and Jeremy Schmidt should be fairly impressed.


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