- David Sylvian Review
- Farvel Press Sheet
- Rohey Press Sheet
- Eivind Aarset Bio
- Atomic Press Sheet
David Sylvian - There's a light that enters houses with no other house in sight
To begin, let's rewind.
I can't remember when I first encountered the poetry of Franz Wright. A friend of mine was very impressed by him, but I didn't really latch onto him at all. There wasn't anything innately wrong, as such – it just didn't grab me as other poetry did.
2013, Punkt Festival, Kristiansand. Stephan Mathieu, David Sylvian and Christian Fennesz took to the stage in the Fønix Kino. The piece began, ambient, little microevents here and there, that evolving convolution of sound, and then came the voice. A broken voice, rasping, as much stuck inside the throat from which it came as leaving its owners lips. The kind of voice that made Tom Waits sound like a choir boy. However, the words were fascinating, and … heavily charged with an honesty that was almost unbearable, yet strangely reassuring. For me, the whole experience was as profound as any I had experienced in a theatre. Yet my head was making jarring gearshifts into analytical mode, trying to ascertain to whom the voice belonged, trying to make fuller sense of the whole.
After much discussion with the DPM regulars who were there, with William S. Burroughs and various others being regularly mentioned, a little bell sounded in the back of my head. Therefore, I asked Christian Fennesz: "Was that Franz Wright?" To which, rather pleasingly, I got a smiling "yes!"
Feeling very smug I was. Equally, however, I couldn't figure out what had happened that Wright's poetry was actually affecting me, getting in touch with something it hadn't previously reached. Was it his voice, with all the life-ploughed gravelly paths through it? The words themselves? The setting to music? All of the above?
Upon arriving home, I got a copy of Kindertotenwald, the volume from which the poetry came. I read it through quickly, a full read-through every night for a week or two. Then I began digging into it. This wasn't the Franz Wright I had been presented with before. This was something different (aside from this being a collection of prose poems, a poetical form that occupies a strange limbo, and continues to confound many).
Since then, like many, I have been patiently awaiting a recorded version, whether live or studio, of The Kilowatt Hour. The announcement on the 20th of October that Sylvian would be releasing a "long-form piece" called "there's a light that enters houses with no other house in sight" finally showed that something was coming with Wright's verse (and voice) – that title comes from the poem "Nude With Handgun and Rosary" found in Kindertotenwald.
Gone was Stephan Mathieu, and in his place was mention only of Christian Fennesz and Franz Wright. As such, it was immediately apparent that whatever this release was, it wasn't going to be The Kilowatt Hour (on his website Stephan issued the following statement: "I have not been part of The Kilowatt Hour since the final live dates were played in September 2013. Hence I was never involved in the production of a CD titled there’s a light that enters houses with no other houses in sight.My own dedication to Franz Wright will be published in 2015 by Editions Mego"). By contrast, where initially mention was made of The Kilowatt Hour in press releases from the Sylvian camp, these were subsequently removed. More ominous is the removal of the album "Wandermüde" from Sylvian's official discography). Part of me was disappointed, as I liked The Kilowatt Hour project, and liked it a great deal. The rest of me was very interested to hear what "there's a light that enters houses with no other house in sight" would sound like (although, now I have the additional anticipation of hearing what Stephan will produce as a dedication to Wright).
In addition to Sylvian and Fennesz, there are significant contributions from John Tilbury, Otomo Yoshihide, and Toshimaru Nakamura. The suggestion was something that would not be a million miles away from Sylvian's 2009 masterpiece, "Manafon". At the same time, "Uncommon Deities", an album where Sylvian read the poetry (translated to English) of Paal Helge-Haugen and Nils Christian Moe-Repstad had also happened since "Manafon", so I wondered whether that may have had some influence, although the lack of Jan Bang and Erik Honoré suggested that "influence" would be as far as that would go.
I allowed my ears to spend a large amount of time with this new piece. At just over 64 minutes, it is a piece that immediately announces a requirement for focus on the part of the listener. Of The Kilowatt Hour project, Sylvian had said, "If I'm honest I'd be disappointed if I failed to discover a new language with which to work." From the outset, it is apparent that he has.
The overlaps between "Manafon" and "there's a light that enters houses with no other house in sight" are merely circumstantial. This is music that breathes with decaying lungs; and this is what the cover reminds me of – those wintery branches look like an x-ray of human lungs, as much as fulfilling any visualisation of the title "Kindertotenwald" (literally translated as "Children Dead Forest", and given Wright's work as a volunteer in a centre for grieving children, could be taken as "Children of Death's Forest" as much as it could be taken as "Forest of Dead Children" – the two meanings are suspended, their individual certitude denied by the other – although I'll allow German speakers to debate that properly).
The title, "Kindertotenwald" also echoes Gustav Mahler's "Kindertotenlieder" (which is usually translated as "Songs on the Death of Children"), which itself was taken from an original collection by Friedrich Rückert.
Piano leads us in, although it has been carefully tampered with, and seems to stutter. The tides of musical breathing are incremental layers of sound, punctuated by occasional glitches, and unexpected loops lifted from the music that has immediately preceded it, like an echo that refuses to fade.
When Wright's voice appears, reading "Wintersleep", there is a steady incursion of Fennesz's guitar. Wright's reading is not a typical declamatory style, as adopted by far too many poets. Instead, he is casual, unhurried, matter-of-fact. In short, it feels honest, no matter how off-kilter or slightly surreal his turns of phrase actually are (the idea that he has become the blizzard, or that the blizzard has become him, is a linguistic slippage reminiscent of Richard Brautigan, where words exchange places without exchanging meanings, and vice versa, but almost so you don't notice at first. This could be disconcerting, but in Wright's case, it makes perfect sense).
Fennesz's guitar treatments and playing are beautifully paced, simple, welcome, and bring a resolution that is in keeping with the shoulder-shrug ending of "Wintersleep":
"And when you think about it, why should you try, why should you even care?"
The music has a strange feeling of all happening simultaneously in many different rooms of a large house, and the recording is being made while moving through a series of corridors, picking up snatches of elements here, and fragments there.
The next poem is "The Wall", an evocation of Baudelaire. Musically, there isn't a massive shift in tone or structural methods. "The Peyote Journal Breaks Off" comes next. The closing lines are poignant, potent: "All at once I am vividly aware of what this room is going to look like when I am no longer alive" and they echo into dissolution. Fennesz's guitar returns once more, merging with a denser passage, carefully enfolded and unfolded layers of unsettled harmony (rather than a discordant saturation of notes and chords). This, musically speaking, is one of the piece's most beautiful moments, not solemn, not trite, but perfectly balanced.
"Dead Seagull" is the next piece, a poem that seems to address his father, and harks back to the earlier "P.S." from the collection "Walking to Martha's Vineyard":
I close my eyes and see
a seagull in the desert
high, against unbearably blue sky.
There is hope in the past.
I’m writing to you
all the time, I am writing
with both hands,
day and night.
Such poems as "Dead Seagull" and "Transfusion" reinforce the notion that Wright is viewing himself as a grieving child, not only for the loss of a loved one (usually taken to be his father, as already stated), but for the loss of self, the loss of time.
The musical introduction to "Blade" stutters, stumbles, ruminates, procrastinates, but gradually finds its voice, a certainty amid a lack of the normal demarcations of motif development. The poem itself was one that caused Wright some difficulty (and was one of his first forays into the prose poem form):
- There was a prose poem, one of fifteen pieces in the very first little book I had out, hand set type, there in northern Ohio January of 1976. It was called "The Knife." I never could get it just right. (Speaking of that, it did make it into Kindertotenwald! It is the one-sentence piece called "Blade"--and dated 1975-2010. It is one sentence, a super-condensed sentence, and it is what has finally become of a prose poem which took up about a page.
(From "Exclusive Interview With Pulitzer Prize-Winning Poet Franz Wright" by Anis Shivani, Huffington Post)
Again, as with "Dead Seagull" the theme of certainty being removed by over-contemplation arises. "Transfusion" segues in, and again, the music seems to rest on the periphery the majority of the time.
There comes a strange, somewhat disconcerting series of subtly placed groans, followed by a glitching lo-fi voice, almost incomprehensible initially, but which speaks the lines:
Beneath the Eastern hedge I choose a chrysanthemum
And my gaze wanders slowly to the Southern hills.
This does not seem to be Wright's voice (I haven't been able to locate the voice after a simple search or two – perhaps readers will fare better). It is taken from a reading of a translation of a poem by Tao Qian (aka Tao Yuanming), a Chinese poet of the Six Dynasties period. He was a nature poet, but one who derived inspiration from the nature immediately around him rather than seeking it in far-flung reaches, and with no requirement for it to be wild rather than cultivated. I can't quite decipher the logic behind this inclusion, but I do know that Tao Qian holds a place among those Eastern poets that inspired a great many poets since the Beats – perhaps Wright is among those. However, the origin of this sample is a distraction to some extent, and in a way, I find its inclusion slightly odd (unless it was the voice of James Wright, which would have a different kind of cohesion). However, it's location near the centre of the piece (in play time, if nowhere else) hints that it holds a degree of significance, if not for Wright, then certainly for Sylvian in relation to Wright.
"Imago" enters. The piano tintinnabulations fading behind Wright's voice, filtered to become a different sonic identity, echoing the theme of metamorphosis contained in the poem. The poem itself has a darkly humorous edge to it, a resigned laughter in the darkness. Abrasive tape-reversed sounds flit through, some grinding in place briefly before wandering off to meet a distant silence.
Simple piano chords and arpeggio bass emerge, suggesting a near-romantic undertone to the bell-like loop that has stayed with us for several minutes. It disintegrates, replaced by percussive mutters and shrill whines. An insistent note stumbles into extended chords. There is a hint of a church bell about these notes, a tolling knell. Feedback howls in like a Hollywood injun turned operatic diva.
"Nude with Handgun and Rosary" comes shuffling (literally, as Wright's voice is given a degree of spliced destabilization, whether as cosmetic fixing, or artistic manipulation is unclear, although unnecessary to know). The piece concludes with "Song", set to strings that have more than a hint of 1940s Hollywood. That final line rings on long after sound ceases:
"If you liked being born, you'll love dying."
Throughout the piece, there are string samples, but no identification has been given. Additionally, it is hard to tell where Sylvian ends and Tilbury begins (or vice versa). Further identification of the elements becomes increasingly difficult, with the exception of Fennesz's guitar. Perhaps this is as it is intended, and further, as it should be.
The whole has a feeling of flaking paint, bare floorboards, mostly glassless windows, and shingles slipped, letting in rain. Here, decay is only a symptom of a general malaise, a chronic dilapidation. Yet, through the broken windows and gaping holes in the roof come shafts of sunlight. By turns, it feels equally as though it is a journey through a darkened room filled with chiming mirrors and clinking chains. It lends an intuitive feeling to the notion that in this place Wright's voice is the only thing that is trustworthy, as though everything else may well hide vicious traps, or some inescapably attractive negativity.
While there are no obvious motifs, musically speaking, or put more simply "hooks" of any obvious kind, the piece doesn't seem to require this. Yet, I can't help but feel that the long-form piece was not the appropriate vehicle for this project. While that was more successful in The Kilowatt Hour concerts, I have a feeling that this was because the piece was made such that long-form was an essential part of its make-up, with the inclusion of Franz Wright's voice feeling just ever-so-slightly "tacked-on".
My personal feeling is that "there's a light that enters houses with no other house in sight" would have been more successful had Sylvian taken a similar approach to Wright's poetry as Mahler took to Rückert's, selecting poems, and setting them individually to music in some form (not with singing of the words, of course – use of Wright's voice). The selection of poems here suggests some kind of continuity (which, of course, they do have, since they are written and read by the poet himself), yet I feel that the sheer scale of the piece creates an impression of a directionless meander between Sylvian's post-Manafon soundworld and Franz Wright's poetry. The effect is often beautiful, unsettling, dark, cold, and futile. However, it does not sustain any particular feeling of unity, musically or thematically aside from a certain stylistic one. To have had each poem, as the poetry of "Uncommon Deities" was presented, in an individual setting, creating a standalone piece that could be a column to support the whole, would have been – to my mind, at least – a more satisfying approach.
There is a temptation to compare this whole undertaking with radio plays. Such a comparison, while not entirely without validity, doesn't hold water for me. This piece is made up of readings of prose poems to set to music. They are not dramatic poems (in the strict sense of that term). This is not a dramatic work. If anything, it feels more like a soundtrack – literally the soundtrack, every sound made, music, Foley, voice and all – of a film. Without visuals, the piece becomes an inner film, a soundtrack to an internalized experience. Imagining a film of the kind displayed in an art gallery is not difficult.
Perhaps this explains the multiple editions of the album. The deluxe edition takes book form, with selected poems by Wright (presumably those used in the piece), and featuring photography by Nicholas Hughes, Amani Willet and David La Spina. The digipak edition features only the photographic artwork by Nicholas Hughes. Finally, a digital version (of which – the deluxe or digipak (presumably the latter)? Alternatively, is it unique unto itself?)
When it comes to music, I am sceptical of limited editions and deluxe editions of new works. If important enough, the artwork should be the only edition. To my mind, multiple editions serve only a small number of purposes in real terms, none of which is particularly positive:
1. Exploitation of "the collector" or "completist"
2. Masking of inadequacy (real, or imagined) – a sign of insecurity, in other words.
3. It is economically-driven, catering "as much as possible" to give the full artefact to as many, realistically.
(In my view, the deluxe version of anything should be the only version. If economic constraints dictate limitations, then so be it. Creating multiple versions creates an implied "hierarchy of appreciation", where only those who commit to the deluxe version are "true fans", or worse, "get what it's all about". I have yet to receive my physical artefact, and so am working solely with the FLAC file, the cover image, and Sylvian's notes on the microsite, http://davidsylvian.com/theresalight/ )
The inclusion of such extensive visual material forces the asking of the question "Why is this necessary?" Although I'm not waving a sycophantic flag here, I'm not waving a negative one, either: the piece stands up, it works, flaws (as I perceive them to be) and all. I don't feel the need for an injection of visual material. When considering that the poems were once sent out to survive on their own – and did so very successfully – it comes across as a touch disingenuous to buff out the piece "there's a light that enters houses with no other house in sight" with visuals.
However, I'm spending time on what I feel to be inessential (as well as unqualified, since I can't yet view the visuals), so will conclude.
"there's a light that enters houses with no other house in sight" is a very fine piece, and in all likelihood, will become one of those Sylvian creations that, for a great many fans, finds itself remaining in near-pristine condition towards the back of the album collection. Somewhere behind "Manafon" and "Blemish" or "Secrets of The Beehive" and "Gone To Earth", sitting shoulder to shoulder with "Camphor", "Approaching Silence" and "Alchemy – An Index of Possibilities", appreciated for what it is, but not enjoyed as often. Or enjoyed at all, in some cases – the poetry may well not be "poetical" enough for some, whatever that might mean, while already there are signs that the music is too challenging – Sylvian biographer Chris Young has written about this, and I would agree with him. Such a fate, while not inevitable, would be unfortunate, because it is a rather beautiful piece, often melancholic, frequently dis-eased, ambitiously failing. The poetry is certainly the star, with the music as supporting cast: the poetry has a bright future, the music will probably remain in repertory theatre.
I once had a teacher, a De La Salle Brother, who told me that there are three endings possible for any story, and that they were analogous to the mysteries of the Rosary:
"There are Joyful endings, and there are Sorrowful endings. Glorious endings are either of these with an injection of politics."
For me, "there's a light that enters houses with no other house in sight" finds the oft-excluded fourth ending: the Acquiescent – those first two with an injection of resignation.
Farvel - Östtomta
Scandinavian sextet Farvel return with a perfect follow-up to their acclaimed Jazzland debut, "Rok".
"Östtomta", taking its name from where it was recorded in a temporary studio, is an album filled with daring experimentalism, arrangements that break free from convention, cunning artifice that has an infectious quality more readily associated with pop music, nebulous ambience that juxtaposes with urban freneticism. An eerie beauty pervades all, with Isabel Sorling's voice leading it in delicate weaves or furious cross-stitching when necessary, her versatility matched by the context-sensitive playing of her bandmates.
Divided into four sections, each representing the four elements, the album's transitions of tone and texture are sometimes almost imperceptible, and at others almost jarring. The recording marks multiple steps forward for the group, each piece charged with its own dramaturgy, and each a landmark in the overall soundscape of the album as a whole, and illustrates a bold move towards merging the organic and the electronic.
Recorded live, a free jazz spirit charges the album's atmospherics with an electrical vitality and urgency that demands attention, whether through sparse interjections or the full ensemble driving forwards with an unstoppable intensity
Rohey - A Million Things
With a wall-to-wall 21st century freshness, light years past any concept of vogue, or any linear genre lines, Norwegian quartet Rohey deliver music that bristles with energy and honesty, that grooves with the best funk, that has deep soul roots while keeping an eye on the broad expanse of a golden future. Lead vocalist Rohey Taalah brings all the emotional complexity you would expect of a classic jazz or soul singer (and can withstand comparison with any with ease). Ivan Blomqvist's keys play a dual role of laying down old school sonics, while bringing a retrofuturistic hyper-urban tone (akin to British IDM), while Kristian B. Jacobsen (bass) and Henrik Lødøen (drums) create a jazz-soul-funk hybrid rhythm section that ducks and weaves with supreme artfulness.
Rohey have toured extensively throughout Scandinavia, taking in just about every major Jazz festival along the way. With the release of "A Million Things" on Jazzland Recordings in early 2017, their path can be expected to take them ever further: music this good can't be kept secret for long. "A Million Things" performs a balancing act that most pop artists have forgotten in these days of studio micro-editing: how to write and play a song with full and sincere conviction, while enjoying an artful expressiveness without making things unnecessarily difficult for the audience. This has been borne out by their nomination for 'Best Single' at the Scandinavian Soul Awards in 2015.
Eivind Aarset is a guitarist with a unique musical vision that absorbs and reflects all manner of music while retaining an enviable individualism and high quality craftsmanship that can span from quiet intimacy to searing intensity. His debut as a bandleader on Jazzland Recordings was described by the New York Times as "One of the best post-Miles electric jazz albums," setting a high benchmark that Aarset has consistently met and exceeded, both in the studio and in live performance.
As one of Norway's most in-demand guitarists, Eivind Aarset has worked with Jon Hassell, David Sylvian, Bill Laswell, Jan Garbarek, Paolo Fresu, Marilyn Mazur, J.Peter Schwalm, Mike Manieri, Marc Ducret, Michel Benitas Ethics, Martux-M, Stefano Battaglia, Michele Rabbia, Talvin Singh, and Andy Sheppard. He has worked with Nils Petter Molvaer's band, (appearing on all of Molvaer's albums, including the breakthrough album "Khmer" and 2006's award-winning "ER"). He also has collaborated with Dhafer Youssef, both live and in the studio.
Aarset's musical awakening happened when, at the age of 12, he heard Jimi Hendrix. "I started on the guitar as soon as I heard him," he recalls with a smile. "I bought a second hand Hendrix record and that was it. Then I started getting into rock bands like Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Santana and Pink Floyd before my brother introduced me to the music of Miles Davis, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report and Return to Forever. After a while, I got into the ECM sound of Jan Garbarek, and Terje Rypdal, who was a big influence. Then I went on the road with a fulltime heavy metal band, a fantastic experience, until I got tired of being angry every night! Then I quit and became a session musician."
As part of the band, Ab & Zu, he created the unique guitar style and sound he would later develop further as part of saxophonist Bendik Hofseth's group. However, it was his involvement with Bugge Wesseltoft and the Oslo Jazz underground that crystallized the sound he was seeking: "What drew me to this music was the hypnotic grooves and musical freedom I found," says Eivind. "There's no established rules or tradition in what I am doing, you can make the rules up as you go along. Rhythm is the centre of the music, the landscape the soloist travels through. It's fresh territory and I have no idea where this scene will end up, but there's a lot of great sounds and new music being created which makes it such an exciting scene."
In 1998, Aarset released "Electronique Noire", his debut as a bandleader, and among the first Jazzland releases. Critics cast about for description that fitted the album: "Post rock"; "Nu Jazz"; "Post Miles Ambient"; and "Drum 'n' Bass Fusion" are among the many efforts, yet none truly captures the unlikely match of diversity and coherence that the album displays. During this time, Aarset was working and touring with Nils Petter Molvær, recording on the trumpeter's landmark album "Khmer" (and each Molvaer album since). As Molvær broke through, gaining an international listenership, many fans found their way to "Electronique Noire" and the initial, mind-bending impact of the album opener, "Dark Moisture," is still a popular topic of discussion among Aarset fans.
The next album, "Light Extracts," had much to live up to, and did not disappoint. Again, ambience and club rhythms were present, but the music was becoming a truly separate organism. Where "Electronique Noire" has tracks that could be individually described in terms of genre(s), "Light Extracts" offered music that could only be described in terms of "Aarset-ness". The album features the bass clarinet of Hans Ulrik, an artist Aarset met when recording with Marilyn Mazur's Future Song; Ulrik's sound would lend the album a whole new dimension, and he has appeared on each release since. Aarset retains melodic elements, and uses sound as poetry or painting, somehow anchoring it in definite imagery rather than the abstract. Of course, many critics visualise a wintering far-northern Nordic landscape, complete with fjords and whalesong; however, the soundscapes could equally represent deserts, jungles or even desolate alien mountains. The music speaks to a universal spirit.
"Connected" marked yet another leap up on Aarset's evolutionary ladder and sits like a prelude to a manifesto. "Connected" perfectly captures Aarset's working method. His musical world is uniquely his, and the vocabulary of his guitar describes it as no one else could. The music has become self-referential, yet manages to retain warmth and openness. The overtly club music aspects of the sound have been fully consumed, and are accompanied by a new glitchiness, courtesy of Jan Bang, Erik Honoré and Raymond Pellicer. Aarset's reflexivity progresses boldly, offering "Changing Waltz", a variation and re-visioning of "Empathic Guitar" from "Light Extracts". Unburdened by the history of electric guitar and guitarists, Aarset erases any of the potential egoism of being a guitarist with a Zen-like calm in favour of stronger musical statements. In addition to Hans Ulrik's clarinet comes Dhafer Youssef's oud and voice, bringing the electronic and the acoustic to a new equilibrium rarely achieved.
Aarset also has appeared on the album "Jazzland Community", a document of the 2006/ 07 tour featuring Bugge Wesseltoft, Sidsel Endresen, Håkon Kornstad, Marius Reksjø¸ and Wetle Holte. Two Aarset tracks appear, "Connectic" and "Electromagnetic", and two ensemble pieces: "The tour was a great experience for me," says Aarset. "I loved the way our different styles and concepts worked together and came out as a whole unified concert, not just different acts in one show. And the collective improvisation at the end of each concert was amazing. It was always happening." "Sonic Codex", Aarset's forth Jazzland release, is perhaps the strongest studio album with a band he has produced so far. "Sonic Codex" takes concepts from his earlier albums, restates, elaborates, and then amplifies them to create a true masterwork that may well be a defining moment in both Aarset's career and the history of Jazzland. The album's title is a perfect summary of its hour-long contents: it is a SONIC CODEX. It puts forward Aarset's rules of engagement with the listener, and very deliberately quotes and redefines the musicality that made up his previous three albums, "Electronique Noire", "Light Extracts", and "Connected", yet also points his way forward; it is an innovative present that simultaneously summarises the past, and predicts the future.
Sonic Codex Orchestra: Live Extracts
Taken from various venues, and with slight variations of personnel, Live Extracts retains the unity of feeling and purpose found on Aarset's studio work, yet is constructed from a completely different perspective. The dynamism of the live sets offers the listener a fresh perspective on familiar material, often sounding completely reimagined. However, the distinctive approach is clearly that of Eivind Aarset, albeit less distilled or refined: this is the raw ore of his imagination, often bold, energetic, and untamed, yet capable of moments of stillness, tenderness and cool composure. It is an expressionistic version of his sonic world, but never falls into self-indulgence - ego takes a distant backseat, instead allowing the interplay of the musicians to grow both inside and out the song structures that Aarset's fanbase know so well, creating something utterly new in the process. The opening and closing tracks, although growing to and from separate established pieces from the Aarset oeuvre, are superb examples of spontaneous music, filled with atmosphere and delicate brilliance. Echoes of Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis also resound in Electromagnetic and Sign of Seven respectively, but are driven through a very Aarset filter. For fans, this will be an affirmation of their zeal for his music. And for those who have never experienced Eivind Aarset's live performances, Live Extracts will be a revelation, one that will make them pay very close attention to concert listings in future.
Although "Dream Logic", Eivind Aarset’s fifth studio album seems to mark a departure in many ways (his first album as leader outside Jazzland Recordings, and no "band" in any conventional sense), the identity is unmistakable. Working closely with Jan Bang – who co-wrote several of the tracks – "Dream Logic" like its predecessaor, "Sonic Codex" lives up to its title, with motifs and musical "images" merging and emerging from guitar-based soundscapes. At one fluid and dynamic, the effects can be hypnotic or disconcerting by turns, yet the feeling throughout is that one is listening to an artist at the peak of his powers. The working relationship with Jan Bang has been one that has made some important contributions to Aarset’s previous albums (notably "Family Pictures", a 3-part piece spanning two albums), but here that relationship has created something familiar and strange, and perhaps represents Aarset’s most ambitious project to date, not in the scale of the production, but in the capable and determined exploration of hitherto barely explored regions of his sonic world. The results are, invariably, beautiful. Where Aarset will go from here is anyone’s guess, but what is certain is that the journey will be worth taking.
Atomic - Lucidity
Through avenues of lights, accompanied loneliness, lonely accompaniments, musical exhortations and tremulous lulling, Atomic introduce their latest opus in typically defiant form. The album assembles the various Atomic components in a thoroughly recognizable yet surprising (and sometimes disconcerting) way, suggesting multiple time signatures, motifs and submotifs, musical tracery that seems to defy explanation in conventional terms.
They take moments of minimalist simplicity and contextualize them, by turns, in amorphous textures, angular musical structures, whimsical interplays and rushes of driving frenzy. A track might swing in on muscular arms from the highest reaches of the jungle canopy, bedecked in its finest groove, before shedding its ape suit to reveal something altogether more ethereal.
They seem to hurtle in freefall spirals, before raising merry hell with free improvisations, looping and diving amid each other's vapour trails, and managing to recalibrate simultaneously their alignment and launch into the next composed passage without batting an eyelid.
If you ever wondered what synchronized swimming among man-eating sharks might sound like, this is probably as close as you'll ever get.
For all the oomph and swagger, there are moments of fragile beauty in there, too. Wiik's piano lines sometimes seem eggshell thin amid the hubbub, yet they remain solid, unbuckled. As anyone familiar would expect, the solos are of top quality, made of thought processes long-aged and matured in the uniquely flavoursome Atomic cask.
Newly-arrived Hans Hulbœkmo more than ably batters and rattles in Paal Nilssen-Love's stead, displaying a similar, yet personally signed, technique. Caps must be doffed to any musician who can even be passable within a unit with near-psychic communication skills as Atomic have always seemed to possess: Hulbœkmo already feels as though he has always been there.
Wiik and Ljungkvist (as has become the norm over the past number of years) provide the compositional frameworks for the group's inventiveness and sheer authenticity to be placed on full display. While this album may have a touch more shadow than usual, the trademark mercurial wit remains intact, with knowing echoes, paraphrases and quotations popping up here and there, archness romping through disquieting musical turns of phrase, while unfettered sincerity warms the heart of oblique passages elsewhere.
"Atomic's ability to renew itself seems limitless, as though each step of its path to date has been as fresh as the one before it. With each new release they demonstrate their will to outdistance, outshine, outfox, outclass and outmaneuver their past work. All signs point onwards and upwards." - Davesplacemusic.com