Venq Tolep opens with two melodic, melancholic pieces: “Advent” gets us dancing, while “Westfal” has us lying in the grass amid the buzzing heat and rustling wind, wishing that the summer will never end. We hear the voice of Lysann Zander, with whom Wruhme has worked previously on projects including his album Thora Vukk. Hers is not the only familiar name on this album: Sidsel Endresen and Bugge Wesseltoft have both appeared on releases from Wruhme’s bootleg label (which I would normally not mention, but we’re living in times in which mainstream and club artists see this as anything but negative). Here, they are featured on “Nata Alma,” a laid-back club track. “Iklahx” and “Ak-Do 5” both possess a carefree percussiveness, while “Komalh” and “Ago Lades” prove that when Wruhme talks about techno, he means club music more akin to the elegance of London 2-step, perhaps even fueled by R&B/hip-hop and swingbeat, and far removed from the Belgian-Teutonic bunker sound. “Bézique Atout” is a reinterpretation of “Domino,” a track from French producer Oxia which Wruhme remixed in 2017, stylishly making it his own. Two more familiar tracks are “Volta Copy,” a version of his 2015 hit “Volta Cobby,” minus the beat, but now propelled by arpeggios, and “Ende #2,” like greetings received from around the world in a day, picks up where “Ende” from Thora Vukk leaves off.
Finally, the title track, “Venq Tolep,” draws on all the album’s various movements in 4 minutes and 18 seconds: the light, pensive mood, the subtle, driving rhythm in the mid-BPM range, the ambient-sounding layers of synthesized strings and the percussive electric piano melody lines. The earliest tracks on the album date back seven years, while the newest were recorded in 2019. Yet, you would never guess that from listening. Venq Tolep has such a well-rounded sound. Like an arch unfolding in space. And that, of course, is the universe of Robag Wruhme. Warmth instead of coolness, friendliness instead of distance. But with Venq Tolep, Wruhme creates something even more extraordinary: the album may speak the language of club music, with seemingly familiar soundscapes, layers and arrangements, but the tracks on Venq Tolep boldly verge on feeling like songs. Is it techno pop? Pop techno? Pop ambient? Ambient pop? Let’s just say that Venq Tolep is Robag Wruhme’s first venture into pop music.