Review: sgrow blossom and dwindle through ‘Circumstance’

sgrow | Circumstance | NO FOREVERS

Release date: 10 November 2017

Review by Jenna Dreisenstock

We hold in our hands the former; flare touch, gleaming crystal reflection – ourselves beneath a sheet of glass, a picture frame. It shimmers in the grasp of what we cling to, or what the illusion of our story once was, is, will be. Looking back at ourselves in our juvenile forms, there’s a remembrance of what we thought our futures may become. Through our adolescent eyes, at that time; it was almost as though, once we reach a certain stage within our lives, within ourselves; suddenly the constant ebb and flow, the treacherous waves of what it means to grow – they come to a standstill. It’s a constant question of when; when is the calm after the storm? Finding ourselves in a glimmering sea of stability and understanding; is but an illusion buried within our chest, a spoonful of surreal control fed to us each day – once we reach that age; that career, that goal – we have fused into the final level of our being; a being that is safe, that is still – that is certain. That’s where our bodies lie, and our minds are content; as the uncertainty has faded, our lives have sunk into a undeniable protection from the chaos of our past, from the mayhem of what it means to struggle, to regain, to fall, to stand. An unattainable actuality; which perhaps we believe to keep ourselves sane – my love, do not fret – you are now in control. My love, do not despair – the engulf of the storm has passed, and as you stand, you will feel no longer, the possibility of your legs buckling beneath you, your body becoming too cumbersome for all of your being. You stand centered and tall, the stitches of your being sowed in place as never to fray. However, when we turn to look back, our bodies pillars of salt – trying to remain strong within the eye of the storm; we have grown, now. We are safe now. 

Why am I so afraid, why is this, why am I – our hands begin to shake, our body shivers with terror – my love, why do the waves continue their struggle – my love, the glass of the frame is breaking beneath our clutch of the stories we told ourselves; there never was a certainty. A reality in which we are still, a reality in which we have achieved our desired state of being; the phantasm of this lie breaks apart, from within ourselves, this was never an actuality and life does not just, stop. And that’s it. The growth has not reached its peak, the change has not ceased to continue. After the original growth, the eye of the storm; there is the day after. The day after, we pick up the pieces in which have shattered; however, although we are re-assembled,the cracks within our being filled with a golden paste we so carefully applied; we have no control over this weather, the day after, the day after, the weather changes – back and forth, back and forth; we break apart, and pull ourselves together, our bodies shatter and the pieces, often heavy for our frail, drained hands to gather up. Yet we shall rise, yet we shall shatter again; is growing, is growing, is growing; it never stops. Our control remains, our control is lost. Our lives never reach the certainty we imagined they would, as there is always the day after; our Phoenix bodies bursting into flames of vigor, fading into terror, rising once again from the circumstance of our uncertain existence. Certainty an unattainable goal; we fight with ourselves in maintaining our illusion of “but one day”. But everyday. But today, but tomorrow, but yesterday. A different person each day, than the young one and their stories in the shattered picture frame. decisions to make, to regret, to celebrate, to move forward, to move backward – to embrace and fall into, to reject and run away. Is growing, is growing, is growing; and never comes to a halt.

Avant-pop, experimental Nordic duo sgrow, present us with their second album: Circumstance – an experimentation in the liberation of the individual, the control and the uncertainty of our human experience. The first of an upcoming series of conceptual albums, the duo – consisting of multi instrumentalists Vilde Nupen and Kristoffer Lislegaard, explore what it means to break out of our comfort zones; the anxiety of ever branching choice – the “what ifs” – the melancholy of losing oneself, and the ecstasy of regaining oneself; a back and forth of a life that exists within a grey spectrum; a spectrum in which nothing is set in stone, the nervous venture into the unknown – and still, the courage to see the world through new eyes. A sound that echoes within the ribcage, sgrow combine a multitude of genres on which they build themselves up; with ever changing, ever loving nods to artists such as Aphex Twin, FKA Twigs and Björk to name a few. This experimentation of genre, ranging from waves of avant-garde pop thrills, to experimental electronic dance – the driving rhythms of wanting to move, move, move – the bass within your being; the smooth comfort, the dreamlike vocals and calm reminiscent of trip-hop; these elements create a sound in which we find ourselves lost and found. A sound as tentative as our ever growing, ever faltering branches, flowers and colours within us – we are presented with a raw reverberation, a mirror of ourselves.

An apt introduction to Circumstance, the first track titled – ‘Is Anyone Where They Want To Be?‘ reveals to us a question in which, we perhaps forget to ask ourselves; in the everyday whirring of our own existence, the worry of where we currently are in this stage of our lives we tend to forget; we are not the only ones, we are not the only ones who are lost, who are melancholic, who are doubtful and frustrated – presented with a swell of glissando electronics, a calm sea rising and falling within our bodies, Nupen’s ethereal echo through her vocals; lead us through an auditory halcyon yet present, questioning of ourselves and the spaces in which we find ourselves. She asks, an accompanying wave of comfort in electronic texture; with a focused yet curious understanding “Is anybody where they want to be?” 

“What type of distraction shall I pick today? To keep me from facing the fact that, I’m drifting -“ the ocean may have the illusion of welcome, yet we find ourselves drifting ever onward into a vast open space; the driving soft, yet rhythmic swells beneath Nupen’s voice an ever reminder of the possibility of our solo rowboat, floating lowly in our worry of confrontation, an uncertainty of the stray in direction in letting go. The waves they carry us onward. The bob of the blue beneath us, an anxiety that the more we drift, the more possibility arises of tipping over. We feel, in their sound as we drift; the trip-hop influence in echo similar to closing our eyes – letting go of the steering wheel, dropping the oars; too tired to actively head back to shore…

“I used to know who I was, been crippled by the power to create my own definition; I question all my decisions; consolation, a gut feeling – anything”.

Being faced with regaining the truth of ourselves, the infinite power we forget we have simmering within us – in that reminder of losing control, in regaining control – perhaps sometimes, the overwhelm of that power within us to shape the lives we want; the lives we forget we could have, creates an anxiety in which its easier to carry on, with our eyes closed – floating on, because in the creation of ourselves – what if?

Immediately following, the second track of the album ‘Feel Something‘; jolts us, a strong confident bass line heart beating, beating, beating – we’re feeling, we’re gasping, an excited break from the moody drift of trip-hop tranquil hovering in our uncertainty, to a beat and textural haze of vocal experimentation – an embrace of the need within us, to grab onto this ardor – trust within us and desperation of our conscious mind to move forward; reminiscent of the urge of dance within contemporary club music, yet with an avant-garde approach to the exploration within glitching, metallic timbres.


Nupen’s cut, cut, cut up of syllables within the sphere of powerful driving force; the forceful bass line, revealed steadily at first, pounding like a kick-drum within our chests; stop, a moment of relaxation – of explanation “I’m embracing this now, whole heartedly – I think I’m -” tranquil breaks; vocals that resemble a need within the beating of our hearts, an anxious breathing in the form of the avant-garde, steady steady and suddenly, a gasping repeat of “I think I’m -” a slight jolt of a syncopated beat within the expected, “I think I’m starting to feel something” our steady kick turns into a hyperventilation of the rapid realization of control and embrace of the uncertainty of feeling.

“I’m embracing this now…”

Our being is lightened in a switch of realisation, the confidence reveals an acceptance in which Nupen’s vocals are accompanied by an understanding soundscape, comforting electronic texture of the unwind in a seascape; “Clarity, finally – crisper, sharper than I imagined it would be – flip the switch in a minute, I’m starting to really enjoy this; click click, can you hear it? Everything is falling into place.” 

The let go of the fear of the uncertain, the embrace of the engulf of the intensity of feeling – in saying goodbye to our hesitation, we find we have the strength to create our existence entirely in personal definition; and it’s exhilarating. “I think I’m -“ walls of glitch, static, beating experimental timbre reintroduces itself in acceptance, layers of sound as uncertain yet, swelling, beating, excite as a true, confident welcome; of what it means to truly feel, to let oneself feel. You need not be afraid of yourself, welcome it, encompassing it within our conscious deity of existence.

In a haunting juxtaposition, ‘Daeva‘; the fourth track of Circumstance – we are reminded of the looming, pull of the omnipresent moon – the high tides in which, we find ourselves drowning, gulping down as much air as we can; a part of us thrashing in desperation of regaining control, a part of us exhausted, broken – sinking, and slipping below. ‘Daeva‘, are described as supernatural beings or evil spirits whom, animalistic in nature; rupture from the shadows in order to tear the human spirit apart. Opening with seemingly industrial, mechanical and cold sound of a cyber-synth; a somewhat ghostly apparition in which we are greeted with Nupen’s soulful vocals, shrouded in melancholia as we are introduced to our inner demon, the fight within oneself. 

“I’ll creep into your thoughts, fantasy; watch it fester and grow. I’ll pose as your friend, draw you close, gain your trust and take you under my control. I’ll change the way you act, how you feel; make you forsake your dreams and hopes.”

Slithering it’s way into our psyche, we are often confronted with a darkness in which calls to battle; gesturing toward us, drawing us into a furious ocean of feeling, we are overtaken by the shadows of ourselves. The bony fingers of the demon persona – an illusion of a false god; often unaware – the parts within us still ready to fight for our belief of control and yet…we are drawn into the swamp, the beckoning comfort of the sleep; of the pitch black – ready to surround, fill our veins with its endless void – in which the ecstasy of feeling becomes a dull ache. A pain within us; a phantasm self taking hold of the limbs we once held strong, the hopes we once pursued with exhilaration. The eerie twilight of the accompanying voltaic, a twilight-scape of glittering stars as sounds, we delve into an auditory growth of the gloaming within our fragile human bodies; “Your world reduced to a string of thoughts – looped and distorted” – the subtlety of an ever weaving atmospheric, ambient impression through choice of instrumental abstraction.

Falling into ourselves; the waves in which crash and flow vigorously through our veins – a drowning, a rescue, a relief – a break apart, from the inside out – “The highs are getting higher, the lows are getting lower…and then years down the line, you somehow pull yourself together” – wading knee-deep in a bog which falls cumbersome on our tired bodies, desperate hands clutch to pull you down but you hold onto yourself tightly, you hold onto yourself – you need to, hold on – “Although some time has passed, I left scars on your soul” the shade which has buried itself within our skin, the ritualistic demon copy-cat that crawls outward from the depths; we may hold on and create individual liberation, but the claw marks that have been sliced deep within those parts of ourselves we once trusted, leave us in a haze of doubt.

The non-linear human experience in which a grey spectrum life is lived; there is no black & white feeling, no one moment living with us; within the darkness we hold a burning light within our grasp, yet, within the flame there lives an unbearable truth. The momentum of Circumstance is a stop, start, continue – abrupt, start, stop. Uncertain; despite the previous darkness looming of ‘Daeva‘, we are revealed an embrace of oneself, of one another – not yet afraid of the other, rawness of a love that is not tainted yet true; an ultimate juxtaposition to ‘Daeva’s‘ thrashing demon, ‘Young Love//Raw Emotion‘ greets us with a hint of dark timbre, yet glittering personified in auditory landscape – “I feel safe with you, you are all I need; I belong to you – you feel safe with me, I am all you need; you belong to me.” the somewhat naive yet, wholesome feeling of the warmth of the one you love; misunderstood, yet a tugging craving of purity. A safety in which we thought had left us, a safety the Daeva stole – a back and forth, we take it back even in our uncertainty; followed through to the next track, ‘Waves‘. There comes a time however, when even though we grasp desperately for safety, a place of quiet and calm; it closes in on us, it bores into the spirit we often find ourselves ignoring, in fear of letting go to the feeling of what is right within ourselves.

“I’m so tired of the status quo – it’s suffocating. I was born for adventure, this feels like stagnation – don’t want to follow the recipe, that society’s set for me; I wish I were braver – I wish you’d be brave with me. Take the leap and not wait for the circumstances to be perfect.” the security we long for within our most difficult moments, we find, we need to break free; one moment, my love; I cannot remain in our safe place – “I feel safe with you, but safe is uneventful; you are all I need, but I need you to wake up. I belong to you, I know this in my heart – but I cant help but wonder what could have been if we’d done things differently from the start.” My love, I need you to liberate with me. Our mouths filled with salt water, the slow rushes of electronic seascape, synthetic yet natural in texture; artificial, yet raw electronic timbre followed by a vocal plea – let the waves crash over us, let the waves bring us out to shore and back to sea, the real and unreal; I don’t want safety.

Circumstance feels as though we are taking a journey through our past, our present, our future selves; a mirage of what has been, the images of a life that could have been – the branches grow, and grow, forever branching and following their paths we’re destined to wonder “what if”; what if we had chosen the alternate, if we had drowned in the shadow self, if we had liberated sooner; broke free, stayed safe. Each moment we observe ourselves, experience ourselves and the moments in which we find ourselves drifting upon, into, sinking and below; images of distortion, of clarity. The trust in ourselves a propeller forward, into the unknown; the doubt in ourselves, a hand held, whether in fear – whether out of control. sgrow, through their experimentation of genres, unafraid to express through their raw emotional essence, an auditory experience of a journey belonging so truly to themselves; ironically bringing us back to ourselves; an art piece so true, so real – it resonates within us, it reminds us – Life does not reach a pinnacle. There is no moment in time, in which we become so essentially ourselves; the expectations of the younger, the “start” selves, reach their moment and become the “stop” selves. There is always the day after, there is always a continuation of genuine human experience as the days drift forward; approached with fear, with vigor – passion, terror; liberation and expulsion. It never comes to a halt; is growing, is growing, is growing.

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(Image credit: Mats Bakken)