Paul Jorgensen - Somewhere, Somehow, Sometime and Why Now? (Album Review)

There's a strong case to be made for the transportative quality of music. Yes, music is primarily used to ease stress, unite communities, and express the zeitgeist, but it can also act as a springboard for otherworldly experiences, lifting us from our earthly prison to a place of enlightened peace. Like the stressed businessperson finding momentary respite from a hectic schedule through earphones, music is a key for all of us to access other realms and ways of understanding our reality. Why am I waffling at length about the transportive quality of music? Well, I've been listening to Somewhere, Somehow, Sometime and Why Now?, a retrospective collection of leftfield electronic compositions by South African-born, Australian-based sonic wizard Paul Jorgensen. Covering 30 years of work, this awesomely well-produced record is comprehensive and dense, offering a meticulously crafted world to those who dare take the journey.

"Tone" opens the collection with glacial synths, roaming brass instrumentation, and a smattering of birdsong. This percussion-less take soothes the listener into Jorgensen's musical language, though it isn't long before the artist energizes his otherwise subdued creations with frenetic drums, like on the expansive, wandering "Electric Buddha," which tightens up Jorgensen's loose melodies with industrial percussion and feedback but doesn't rein in his sense of exploration. Equally, the colourfully composed and produced "Pride" is built upon a foundation of heavily rhythmic IDM notions. It should be noted that despite the high-brow, esoteric demeanour of Jorgensen's work, there is little pretension to be found.

Thirty years is a long time. It's normal that an artist will develop and expand their palette with each passing year and monumental life experience that accompanies them. And while it's not noted which tracks were recorded when and where, the timeframe of this collection means there's diversity in both intention and execution. "Bowls in Motion" forgoes the full-bodied sound of the opening tracks and sets the scene with eerily spacious soundscapes. Likewise, "Resonator" is a more upbeat, bright, and commercially viable cut with accessible dynamic changes and captivating shifts in intensity and rhythm.

The halfway point of the album is the interlude "Hallowed Ground (for Harold Budd)," a capricious creation that pays homage to one of the greats of minimal avant-garde composition. Despite its brevity, this track seems to bloom and flourish with organic life. Jorgensen moves up gears on "Opera," a mammoth 9-minute song that uses worldly rhythms, textured sound design, and truly sexy guitar riffs to create a more brutal and threatening portrait. "Harmonic Ratios" counters this with more winsome and calming harmonic guitar strikes, idiosyncratic percussive hits, and the trademark sound of ghostly synths stretching out to oblivion. It is, perhaps, the most musically straightforward moment in the collection. Experimentation resumes with the scattered and futuristic "Little Feet on the Farm," the dark-cornered world of the vocal-heavy "Trumpet ATA," the decidedly '90s feel of "Shipping News," which uses a plethora of glitches and a downbeat backbone to weave its intoxicating web of peculiarities, and the explosive, discomfiting, and anxiety-propelled "Crime." Closing the record, "April Showers" sees Jorgensen treat his listeners to epic and inspiring tones unspoiled by aggressive percussion or harsh synths.

Listening to Somewhere, Somehow, Sometime and Why Now? in one sitting, from start to finish, is akin to the feeling of waking up after a long-haul flight, realizing you had been dreaming the entire journey. Jorgensen has the uncanny ability to place the listener in an exotic setting, though one that's not so easy to shake, and once you depart from his phantasmagorical world, you may find that a part of you is still there.