By Chris Doxtator
Lief Sjostrom uses the term “cinematic” to describe the music he makes, and he couldn’t be more apt in that comparison. Like a choose-your-own-adventure novel, Leif’s music is a user-driven experience. He sets the mood and gets you started, but his scores inspire abstract associations by the listener. You bring your own experience to the sound. This is true for any music, but here, there are no clear-cut lines. It’s up to you to fill in the missing details however specifically you please. This makes for an immersive listening experience that’s as rich as your ability to let go and dive in.
To add to the cinematic quality of his music, Lief pairs his leads with looped guitar and cello rhythms. He creates layers of sound, so the lighter lead lines emerge. Delay and other effects are added to create ominous moods. In “Cracks in the Horizon” streaks of thunder can be heard echoing into the distance. In “Dark, Wet Steps of a Villain,” we can hear a potentially nefarious plan being hatched or carried out. While not visual at all, Lief’s music inspires descriptive scenes because of his ability to create sonic tension with disparate ranges in solemn songs.
All three pieces Lief recorded cover a wide range of expression. Low notes and tones are present in each. They establish gloomy and serious moods—they create the tension like a shift from bad to worse is imminent. The lead lines conjure dark individuality, lone agents acting out in complex circumstances, as if a world is ending because of what is or isn’t being done. The sudden stops and final crescendos at the ends of these tracks contribute to the finality that can be sensed in each. Overall, Lief has an amazing ability for establishing mood, for conjuring dark drama with compelling leads. He composes scores, and you become the rest of the story.