“Elska” means love. “Von” means hope. Love and hope. Two things every single person longs for and needs, and yet two things much too lacking in our world.

A professional musician composing for film, TV and web, Minneapolis-based Chris Bartels also runs his own hybrid record label/production house Anthem Falls Music as an umbrella structure for a variety of experiments including indie pop band Bora York and electronic duo Hi-Fi Cali. Launched in 2012 with the Movements in Season album, Elskavon is a more personal project for the musician which puts forward an ethereal, ambient, instrumental and post-rock sound. Released on 26 January 2018 last, Skylight is Chris Bartels’ fourth LP under the Elskavon moniker.

Elskavon - Skylight (2018)
Elskavon – Skylight (2018)

As hinted by the Icelandic language moniker, post-rock band Sigur Rós has been a major influence in the genesis of a distinct sound and as a continuous homage, every Elskavon LP released to date has included one song name in Icelandic. Chris Bartels also quotes Justin Vernon/Bon Iver, ambient post-rock band Hammock or Keith Kenniff (another American multi-instrumentalist and composer releasing music under several different monikers) as having a big impact on his approach to composition.

Written to celebrate the birth of his second son, “Offers of Peace” also features footage from Iceland – perhaps as a nod to Bon Iver’s official video for “Holocene”. The song “Dusk Line Hills” came about when spotting a wild herd of elk for a fleeting moment at dusk when staying in South Dakota. This short, sudden and uncanny “event” provided the creative spark for the entire album.

“Every single song is inspired by a memorable moment in my life” notes the musician in the liner notes of Skylight.

I really believe memorable moments that we relive over and again are so incredibly valuable, and reminders to not miss the potential in the making now – these are gifts we can never fully get back, so really living these moments is important.

If “Anthos” is a quasi-modern classical vignette for solo piano and ambient electronics, “Buren Storms” or “Ennui” have a more ambient drone and post-rock feel. With its superimposed layers of acoustic or saturated electric guitar, voice, piano, keyboards, glitches and found sound samples, every song on Skylight is the sonic equivalent of a sometimes imperfect, out of focus or even banal amateur photograph.

Over time though, these visual repositories for the small milestones that shape the course of our lives take on a much greater significance, sometimes ending up as the only memory aid we have left to remember them. Listening to Skylight is tantamount to flicking through such a photo album.