Svarte Greiner ("Black Branches") was the nom de scène of one Erik K. Skodvin, founder of the Miasmah label, who also recorded as half of Deaf Center. While his work in that shadowy duo had a lush, cinematic feel somewhat akin to Angelo Badalamenti's film scores for David Lynch, his solo offerings came from a much darker place. On these albums, indefinable organic sounds merge with deep drones, creaks, and scrapes drawn from the strings of cello and guitar, producing a dark, disturbing atmosphere and enveloping the listener in a chilling, nightmarish soundworld.
Skodvin was born in 1979 in Langesund, Norway and was interested in music and art from an early age. He studied graphic design and in 1999, at the age of 20, moved to Oslo and founded Miasmah, both as a design company and as a free MP3 label, to release his own music under various aliases; the following year, he also began to release the work of like-minded artists. In 2004 he founded the duo Deaf Center with his longtime friend Otto A. Totland, releasing the EP Neon City and the album Pale Ravine through the British label Type.
After the release of Pale Ravine, Skodvin began to concentrate less on electronica and, buying his first electric guitar, started experimenting with more organic music-making methods. His first release under the Svarte Greiner moniker was the track "Traditional Wood on Trees," which appeared on the compilation album Silva, Miasmah's first CD, the release of which was aided by Type label boss John Twells (aka Xela) through his job at Manchester-based distribution company Baked Goods. The compilation, which featured numerous names from the post-classical scene, was extremely well received, leading to Type's 2006 release of his debut solo album, Knive ("Knives"), a musical horror movie on which he single-handedly invented a genre -- which he dubbed "acoustic doom" -- that would go on to be heavily imitated.
In the following years, Miasmah grew into a full-fledged concern, releasing numerous dark ambient albums for which Skodvin did all the graphic design, as well as commissions for other labels, all while continuing to record as Svarte Greiner. He released a succession of limited-edition LPs and cassettes on various small labels, as well as two further full-length CDs: 2009's Kappe ("Cloak"), also on Type, on which he expanded his palette to create an even denser, all-encompassing fog of sound; and 2010's Penpals Forever (And Ever) on the cult Digitalis imprint. This "imaginary tale of a long-dead Baroque painter and his telekinetic correspondence with a flightless bird" was his bleakest and most harrowing album to date. Following a move to Berlin, he began working at the studio of pianist Nils Frahm, leading to the 2010 release of Flare, the first album under his own name, through the boutique label Sonic Pieces; it was a subtler, prettier, and more accessible work than the Svarte Greiner albums. The second Deaf Center album, Owl Splinters, also recorded there, was released by Type in 2011. Some vinyl pressings of the album included a CD containing a 45-minute Svarte Greiner composition titled "Twin."
Svarte Greiner collaborated with artist Marit Følstad for an installation titled Black Tie White Noise and a video installation titled Something in the Way. Both projects were displayed at museums in Oslo and Tromsø in 2012, and Svarte Greiner's album Black Tie was released by Miasmah in 2013. Deaf Center's EP Recount was issued by Sonic Pieces in 2014. Svarte Greiner's Moss Garden, containing two more pieces commissioned for installations by Følstad, was released by Miasmah in late 2016. ~ John D. Buchanan