[13 September 2009]
Henrik Jonsson took the name Porn Sword Tobacco from the shop closest to Silence, the Swedish studio where he has frequently recorded. His previous album, 2007’s New Exclusive Olympic Heights, contained some sonically astounding, short tracks; gems he would have been hard pushed to top. With Everything Is Music to the Ear, Jonsson wisely broadens his palate and sidesteps the bar. His relocation to Berlin may explain this change, but either way, anyone remaining who finds “electronic” music to be cold can change that perspective with a listen to Porn Sword Tobacco’s fourth album.
This disc has a relaxed grandeur, but it seems as if Jonsson is not so much treading water as inviting more people into the water with him. Short pieces, such as the brief music-box ballet of “Welcome” and the scratchy found-sound piece/piano sketch “Goodbye”, provide great atmospherics with an odd sense of continuing long after their respective stopping points. The longer tracks are nearly all worth the ride, especially “I Love Riding My Bicycle”, a warm, lush, propulsive, and airy click rhythm (albeit with deep tones) reminiscent of the sound baseball cards make when kids (of old) rigged them on the spokes of their bikes to imitate the sound of a motorcycle. Perhaps even better is “From Plural to Singular (Finite Edit)”, a romantic piece that ebbs away and chugs slowly along, as if hopelessly trying to escape the gravitational pull of absent love. “Havet Är Ärligt” kicks off with a rhythm suggestive of a small brick in the Phil Spector cell wall of sound. Away from the lushness, “Cave 4b-50 Clicks Northwest” ventures into Sun Ra territory with charmingly rough production and abstract plinking piano.
For contrast, Jonsson uses voice sparingly but to good effect on both “My Week in Zambia” and “The Lavalife”. The latter, while not exactly Different Trains, uses the spirited speech rhythms of a beautifully incomprehensible guy in the street as its starting point. Everything Is Music to the Ear should win Jonsson some new listeners and won’t disappoint old ones either. Meanwhile, observers of innuendo might wonder what his name would have been if that shop in Sweden had sold cheese instead of tobacco.