The Plus Pedal of Memory

Quite nice short tape experiments from Morten Riis on his cassette Lad Enhver Lyd Minde Os Om (CRÓNICA 186-2022). He did it using modified four-track cassette recorders and his own home-made synths, although the press notes are a little short on specifics, and refer us to mysterious processes such as “media and the human-object participatory democracy”. I suppose this may mean something about the opportunities afforded by technology which have opened up his creative imagination to some degree. The main compositional device appears to be a form of layering, where he makes so many noises and textures that we can’t discern where the original tapes might have been sourced. A painter, blending colours on a canvas, may hope for similar results. There’s a muffled and disjointed quality to the results which is not unpleasant; the title refers obliquely to the possibility of one sound reminding us of something else. I like the brevity of these pieces, but the album doesn’t amount to much more than a series of sketches, vaguely suggestive of other possibilities. Riis comes to us from his studies at Aarhus, and has published on the subject of mediation in sound. (13/07/2022)

From Oslo, the duo of Helen Louise Solberg and Inga Margrete Aas emanate gentle acoustic strums and mysterious spacey plucks with their acoustic guitar and viol da gamba, with the lightweight percussive tippering and tappering of Jan Martin Gismervik on Firstness (dBUT inter@ambience 000), their debut cassette released under the group name O. Although their music has grown out of a local improvisation context in Oslo, they aren’t content to rest on those bushels, and splice their odd music with songs and vocalising, hoping to situate themselves in some wispy area halfway between folksong and free-form acoustic music. Even on these four short tracks, Solberg is keen to show the breadth of her cultural knowledge, with a brief quote from a Neil Young song and references to a poem by Tor Ulven. Even their name, they will have us know, comes from a 1960s American philosopher who studied semiotics. Their sound – slightly unusual combination of instruments – does have a certain charm, but I found the actual playing too tentative and uncertain, and most of the music just stays in the same place with no clear idea of how to proceed. Solberg’s mannered and fragile vocals likewise betray a lack of conviction, with no real sense of importance behind the fragmented lyrics. It’s as if an AI generator were trying to imitate Joni Mitchell. (13/07/2022)

The mysterious Nihiti has been releasing on the Lo Bit Landscapes label for a few years, sometimes in the field of ambient electronics, though For Osland and A New Kind Of Weather (not heard by us) may also shade into doom metal and dark psychedelia. I quite enjoyed moments on Sustained (LBL019), which was apparently a commission for the Sustain-Release music festival in America, specifically for use in the chill-out area (if such things still exist) as an alternative to the loud energetic dance music that this event deals in. Nihiti has not only thrown himself into the task and fulfilled the design brief, but also produced a memorable 21-minute escapade in the form of ‘Stellar Observer’. With a title like that, one’s tempted to start fishing for kosmische references to apply like so many glittery decals to the face, but the music has a stern and implacable quality which appeals for some reason. It’s slow and brooding, and while it might make a great soundtrack for a mountain sunset (I believe Sustain-Release favour mountainous terrain for their frolics), it also passes on an awareness of our own mortality in the face of lengthening shadows. If it’s true that ‘Stellar Observer’ contains “ebb and flow” qualities as the press claims, I still can’t quite see Pauline Oliveros adding it to the pages of her breathing-exercise manual, but in any case Nihiti makes no claims to limn his landscapes outside of a dance culture context. The other two cuts here don’t deliver the same mood of exhausted tranquillity; ‘If The Color’ (made with the help of frequent collaborator Viktor Timofeev) is like an actor unable to find a suitable emotional register to say their lines, and the pointless vocal samples just get in the way. ‘Tetrachrome’ is more accessible than that, but I feel I’ve heard this kind of saturated-ambient drifting drone sound far too often elsewhere. (13/07/2022)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *