Smiles from the Firmament

Håvard Volden
Space Happy
NORWAY SOFA RECORDS SOFA 568 CD (2018)

A neatly presented storyboard all told, where Space Happy‘s eleven frames outline a whistle stop tour of electronics theory and ‘studio as instrument’ aesthetics, given the breath of life by this Trondheim-born experimentalist, whose other exploits take in membership of instrumental noise/jazz unit Moon Relay and the more earthbound electro-acoustics of Muddersten. A further glimpse into his yearbook reveals that he would like Harry Pussy’s “I Don’t Care About Sleep Anymore” played at his funeral (“Interview” Magazine, 9/3/2018). A black humour merchant no less! Perhaps that gallows-pole whimsy continues with that double-bluffing (?) title, which could suggest some form of light-headedness suffered by an oxygen-deprived astronaut? Glazed eyes and a sweating brow however, aren’t on this agenda… but the programming (or banding if you’re a vinyl stalwart), appears to have wobbled from the norm somewhat and shrunk a little time-wise. It’s as if all of the kosmische reverb deployed within these roman-numeralled tracks is of a denser and more invasive medium than top scientists of the day initially thought.

The opener’s rubberoid squiggles and galosh-in-mud puddle squelch (perhaps a nod to Jean Jacques Perrey in his prime?), and long-time associate Jenny Hval’s lovely double-tracked space whisper on “IV”, echoing the sorely missed Gilli Smythe, are immediate pleasures for sure. But when the anguished grind of rusted cheesewire and a recording of a poltergeist imprisoned in a grandfather clock appear as waking nightmares…well it’s fairly obvious that Mr. V is one of those guitarists who’s an adept at sleight of hand, reducing his axe’s identity/dignity to performing lewd and unnatural acts before a crowd of gawping ‘carny’ onlookers. A working method that inches more towards the darker forces conjured up by Editions Mego’s Kevin Drumm, coached from the side lines perhaps by Keith Rowe?

With attractive and evocative sleeve artwork by fellow countryman Lasse Marhaug, a second string to his bow that surely needs more exposure, this, Håvard’s second outing on Sofa can also be found on CD and DL.

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