The Unquiet Grave / Psychedelic Beer Trough

Trondheim Voices are a Norwegian vocal group who have been active since around 2001, I think; led by their artistic director Sissel Vera Pettersen, they happen to be an all-women choir and a lot of their work is improvised, although they have realised at least one work with a composer, the great Maja S. K. Ratkje on Echo Chamber 3.0. The Voices are here today with Folklore (HUBRO HUBROCD2633), which was composed by Ståle Storløkken and Helge Sten, the keyboard player and tape experimenter from Supersilent, a trio who’ve been releasing their unique brand of improvised electronic music on Rune Grammofon since 1998.

Folklore is subtitled “traditional customs, tales, sayings, dances or art forms preserved among a people”, but that might just be an excerpt from a definition of the word; as far as I can make out, there’s no explicit attempt to express, explore, or update Nordic folk traditions on this record, which is mostly all about the sound it makes. The voices perform very simple polyphony, sometimes with eerie solo melodies, sometimes with very understated and poignant mixed harmonies. I can’t make out any actual words in these vocalisations – the aim is to suggest “a timeless chant-like manner” – so one falls back on the tune titles in search of vaguely other-wordly resonances such as ‘Facing The Outerworld’, ‘Aether I’, ‘Counter-Earth’ and ‘Illumination I’. The Supersilent players intend to use the Voices as “one massive microtonal instrument”, and the use of microphones, a mixing desk, and some digital echo have all been permitted too (if I’m reading the project photos correctly). As such, the record is presented as an interesting experimental exploration of the spaces between acoustic and electronic music. (29/01/2021)

Last heard from PAS Musique with their collaboration with Rapoon, the dense and over-crowded Composited Reality CD, but they’re here today with a new record called Psychedelic Talismans (ALREALON MUSIQUE ALRN105), this time a completely solo record by main man Robert L. Pepper. Previous PAS Musique items have been presented as group efforts, but our favourite New Yorker of queasy electro-noise finds himself working alone during the lockdown period and decided to concoct these ambient swirl-a-thons in his home studio, adding colourful titles such as ‘Collected Fictions Brightly’ and ‘ABC Of The Telephone’.

Even playing solo, Pepper just cannot help producing a clotted mix of sounds, often creating a vaguely queasy sensation in the pit of the stomach as he disguises every instrument through use of filters, effects, and dark forces known only to himself. The actual surface of these impasto-painted abstract Pollocks in sound isn’t too bad at all and indeed provides many compelling aural overlaps and fortuitous events, but Pepper still lacks the gift for structure or editing that might give his tunes some shape and direction. His work on guitar and keyboards retains that primitive charm, but one sometimes yearns for a lighter touch. I’ve previously interpreted these records as documents of a delirium or fever, but this time he’s aiming at a drug-fuelled theme; he draws inspiration, we are told, from the ancient site Gobekil Tepe in Turkey. It seems that archaeologists discovered 11,000 year-old brewing troughs on the site of this Neolithic Temple, a fact which has been interpreted by some to mean that some sort of psychedelic-enhanced rituals took place, with the celebrants imbibing draughts of this mind-altering beer as part of this pre-Christian communion.

As if this wasn’t enough, Pepper also hopes to send us all a message of hope, with music that can “serve as a catalyst for a better state of mind during dark times”. To sum up, he hopes for a semi-religious intoxication for the listener, an experience that will deaden the pain until we can make it out of the other side of COVID-19. I have a promo CD, but apparently this exists as a vinyl edition. (29/01/2021)

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