Croatian Amor & Varg2TM – Body of Lila Review

I carried myself out of the water and onto the beach
I laid in the sand giving birth to egg after egg

I took the above quotation, straight from the release notes on Posh Isolation’s bandcamp, as little more than an offer of visual context for Body of Lila –  a vague image to accompany the aural experience. Dutifully obliging, I kept it in mind while listening, resisting the temptation to look further…

The eight-track release is the third in a series of ongoing collaborations between Loke Rahbek (Croatian Amor) and Jonas Rönnberg (Varg2TM) on the Copenhagen label, following 2018’s Body of Water and 2019’s Body of Carbon. Body of Water was an EP of ‘aquatic’ ambient, populated softly by pleasing synthetic texture and melody. Body of Carbon jumped straight into darker territory, with a focus on club and a far harsher sonic palette.

Facing the prospect of a bigger, stronger, younger egg, the two EPs were fused into a double-sided LP, Body of Water / Body of Carbon, earlier in May. Re-imagining the two releases as one offers up space for interesting comparative listening with Body of Lila, given the latter’s relatively faithful adherence to the same ‘fluent ambient worlds’ and ‘rave-helix’ sonic ideologies of its respective predecessors. Rather than attempting a complex fusion of these two approaches in its tracks, Body of Lila goes for a fairly head-on enumeration of the ambient and club explorations familiar from the earlier work; in this sense, both full-lengths play out the same dichotomy. Body of Lila differs, however, by stitching its components together across its tracks, instead of presenting them as two discrete packages. It also departs somewhat from the purity of Body of Water, leaning slightly closer overall to the harsher, vocally-distorted world of Body of Carbon.

This might explain why the record survives issues of fluidity that might be expected from its dualism, save for some abruptness at track boundaries. After the serenity of the first two, ‘Moraine’ and ‘New Face’, the title track interjects with a seven-minute Carbonic interpretation of techno, and from there it mostly favours the abrasive, even as it moves in intensity from ambient to all-out club. ‘Come Home’ lands somewhere in the middle with a largely percussionless allusion to euphoric trance, carried by syncopated, stabby synths.

Despite the darker turn, its ambient side is best at its most serene – particularly towards the end of ‘New Face’, as its washed-out world of synths and manipulated ASMR voices gives way to a stunning, distant arrangement of strings and piano. The club tracks are excellent disciples of Rahbek and Rönnberg’s own specific precedent, and will thrive on the chance to be played out properly, whenever that arrives.

In the expanding Croatian Amor/Varg2TM egg basket, Body of Lila offers, in general, a sort of negative compromise – less innocent than Body of Water, less relentless than Body of Carbon. At certain moments, though, it easily reaches both of the sonic poles familiarised by the first two EPs. In search of a neat summary we could go way too far, and call upon the beautiful biological phenomenon of an egg squeezed firmly at both ends, refusing to crack…

 

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