‘Ratvader’s Dream’, released through the incredible Swedish Columbia netlabel, is the first full-length production from Gothenburg, Sweden-based musician Ratvader, one-half of the group Hello World. If that name sounds familiar, it might be because they wrote the opening track for ChipWIN’s most recent compilation, the Wild West-themed ‘A Fistful of Chiptunes‘. Their atmospheric contribution set the mood for the rest of the album and was a demonstrable display of their musical expertise. What’s more, the album was produced – and had its cover art drawn! – by El Huervo, an artist whose work you may recognize from Hotline Miami between some of its music or its iconic cover art. Now that you know a little bit about the artists, let’s get to know the music a little more intimately, shall we?
The first track we’ll be listening to is ‘Omberg Refuge’, the album’s third track. Omberg is a lush, forested mountain nestled between two lakes in southeastern Sweden, and the piece captures the serenity of nature in aural form. Soft synths, flowing water, the sounds of animals and the cracking of branches introduce our mountainside retreat. Acoustic guitar work, ethereal vocals, abundant bass and piano follow, furthering the established tranquility of ‘Omberg Refuge’. The song’s natural, calming tone is ubiquitous and omnipresent, and with there being few dynamic changes across the piece, and no percussion or complex variations in melodic voices, ‘Omberg Refuge’ is an easily digestible, soothing piece.
Congruent with the album’s theme of natural harmony, ‘El Huervo’s Ahimsa’ follows ‘Omberg Refuge’ and is also introduced by the sounds of the wild. This track, alongside the album’s first track, feature the word ‘ahimsa’ in their title, a word that I was previously unfamiliar with. In Hindu, Buddhism, and Jainism, ‘ahimsa’ is a spiritual doctrine that encourages peaceful thoughts, actions, and the avoidance of bringing harm to any living things. Birds chirping and a deliberately fuzzily-toned piano introduce this piece, yet as the piano plays, its tone becomes more clear and focused, possibly symbolizing the clarity and inner peace that comes with successful meditation. A C# marks every quarter note through the piece and gives the main melody a base to build from as it gracefully ascends and develops. Slight distortion in tone returns, and a deep inhale and exhale can be heard, signifying the end of introspection, and the ability to move forward.
We arrive at our final stop of Ratvader’s ambient, dreamlike journey, ‘Ratvader’s Sanctuary’. After having listened to this piece a few times, I believe it tells a story that ties in directly with the artwork of the album. As the track begins, we hear the echoes of a train or a subway car in the distance, followed by a slightly fluttering buzz, almost like the bulbs within a streetlight, and a faint tapping – a climbing of steps. All of these specific elements, introduced within the first few seconds of the piece, could be representative of elements present within the album cover of ‘Ratvader’s Dream’; it’s not too much of a stretch to do so. As the track progresses, Ratvader’s surroundings come into view. He walks with us through the woods, showing us the splendor of the flora and fauna deep within, and as creation blooms around us, we can bask in its beauty.
‘Ratvader’s Dream’ is available for $2.22 USD on Bandcamp, a small fare for this spiritual, captivating journey. Ratvader and El Huervo’s collaboration has created a deep, lasting piece of artwork that simultaneously emphasizes the need to look into oneself and to appreciate our surroundings. It’s not often that something so wordlessly thought-provoking comes along; ‘Ratvader’s Dream’ shines like a star in the sky, inviting us to partake in its radiance.