Johannes Burström – Dyad

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In sociological terms, a dyad is the smallest possible social group, consisting of just two counter-parties. In the case of Stockholm-based Johannes Burström’s latest project, those two elements are his double bass and electronics, the result being a thirty-seven minute exploration of the sonic potential of an instrument, well beyond its normal, familiar setting.

The approach Bürstrom took reminds me chiefly of Toshimaru Nakamura’s work for no-input mixing boards, here using a microphone to record the sounds of the bass as it was subjected to a loop played through a device placed above it. As far as one can tell from the notes on Burström’s Bandcamp page, the similarity with Nakamura’s work is that the process seemed to involve no actual playing of the bass in the traditional sense, only that the bass responded using tension, resonance and vibrations to the pre-programmed loop from a computer.

In spite of that, it remains possible to discern that the instrument being ‘played’ is a bass. There is an earthy, elastic quality to the resultant sounds that are immediately recognisable, whether in the context of expressive jazz motifs or in the whole-instrument manipulations used by improvising players like Tom Wheatley.

For the most part, however, the chance-filled sound world that emerges here is a dirty, slowly-evolving, almost industrial bed of beautiful noise somewhere between a rapidly-spinning washing machine and quietly humming air-conditioning unit. To do that with an instrument like a bass, with all its distinctive, springy tonalities is a testament to Burström’s interventions and sense of sonic adventure.

Dyad by Johannes Burström was released March 27 2020 by BoogiePost Recordings.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2020 Further.

Sad Man – Indigenous Mix 3

Indigenous Mix 3 is the counterpart to The King Of Beasts, the latest album from Andrew Spackman’s Sad Man alias. The King Of Beasts offered all the expected characteristics of a Sad Man album in the form of jerky, vibrant electronic music that draws heavily on the legacy of jazz music, giving his pieces a natural freedom and looseness that is rare to find in music made on a grid.

Here, each of the album’s twelve pieces are given a substantial makeover, the approach varying between incorporating tribal percussion and throwing out some of the jazzier reference points in favour of a skewed, wonky electronica, and most points in between. That approach gives the mixes of ‘Carbonated’ and ‘Kalifornia’ an awkward, clipped, chunky quality offering a firmness in place of the original’s lightness of touch.

Elsewhere, ‘After After’ is re-rendered as a longform electro workout full of ringing motifs and buzzing melodies, while a standout new version of ‘Door’ becomes a metallic hip-hop groove knocked off course by springing, unpredictable electronic percussion and nauseatingly spiked vocal samples.

Indigenous Mix by Sad Man is released April 1 2020.

Read Further.’s interview with Andrew Spackman about ten of his musical influences here.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2020 Further.

Snakestyle & Tove Aradala – Nordic Patterns

Somewhere along the lines, Nordic culture got a major overhaul, becoming shorthand for sleek minimalism and clinical modernism. Nordic Patterns, a collaboration between electronic musician Matthew Leigh Embleton’s Snakestyle alias and Tove Aradala seeks to redress that, delving deep into the essential fabric of Norse tradition with all its attendant mystique and rich, unique mythology.

Tove Aradala, or Tove Aradala Barbrosdotter Buhe-Stam to give her full name, is well-placed to comment on this. A High Priestess of the Temple Of The Eternal Goddess, a reconstituted religion which taps into the essential polytheism of Norse culture, a belief system which celebrated multiple spirits, gods and creatures. Using sections of Eddas (holy texts), songs and pieces written in the spirit of the region’s folkloric essence, Nordic Patterns affixes Aradala’s gentle singing and resonant chanting to an intricate, entrancing electronic backdrop crafted by Embleton. The album began with a series of field recordings on the Swedish island of Gotland in August 2019 before Embleton returned to London to complete the tracks.

Pieces like ‘Gnisvärd’ exemplify the approach. Here Aradala took traditional folk song rewrote it as the coda to a sparse backdrop of ebbing and flowing electronic sequences wrapped in hazy, frosty textures. Echoing sampled vocals wend their way through the piece, like voices lifted from an old Edison Cylinder, creating a subtle tension between the present and the past. Embleton reveals himself as a sensitive collaborator to Aradala, bathing her ethereal, yet commanding, voice in shimmering reverb and framing her vocal with structures built with a naturalistic fragility. On ‘Klangstenen’, that backdrop is fashioned from liquified, jazzy tones and beats reduced to a primal essence of clicks and pulses; on ‘Trullhalsar’ it is a landscape of dubby bass and wavering, tentative melodies.

The key piece here is ‘Hoburgsgubben’, a nine minute unlikely ambient pop song that flows with meditative purpose. Deeply poignant synth melodies, a shrouded, unobtrusive beat and a general air of serenity envelop joyous lyrics written by Aradala that beautifully celebrate midwinter, and all its frosty promise.

Nordic Patterns by Snakestyle & Tove Aradala was released March 27 2020 by Alex Tronic Records

Words: Mat Smith

Wonderful Beasts – The Art Of Whisper

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More than ever before, ambient music feels somehow necessary right now. It represents a vehicle through which to still one’s restless mind amid a tickertape feed of dystopian signals, harrowing statistics and only the briefest flourishes of hope. Whether as a tool for absorption or distraction, ambient music can centre you elsewhere, allowing you to regain focus and perspective.

Unfortunately, a lot of ambient music is also terminally boring, the equivalent of sonic wallpaper or a naff pastiche of inconsequential New Age reference points. That accusation thankfully cannot be levied at Wonderful Beasts, a pairing of electronic artists boycalledcrow and Xqui, whose first collaboration together is anything but music to drift off to sleep to.

For the most part, The Art Of Whisper is built from blocks of gauzy texture, etiolated clouds of sound that float past you and hover, mirage-like and just out to reach, before vanishing into nothingness. Sprinkles of delicate synth melodies are cast over pieces like ‘I Fell Into A Dream’, a languid pace and frosty atmosphere evoking crystalline structures and ghostly shimmer. ‘Love Her’ and ‘Quiet’ include what could be the heavily-processed sound of pealing church bells submerged under layers and layers of dense reverb so as to leave the merest trace outline of joyfulness.

Elsewhere, there are pieces that break free of these beatific soundworlds. ‘My Old Guitar’ has a firmness and drama, its delicate melodic gestures nudged forward with a murky bass undertow and a distant beat. The track opens with a distorted, over-amped synth passage, creating the sense of memory and nostalgia enshrined in the title. A similar effect can be found on ‘She Is The Melody Man’, wherein a pounded, tribal rhythm supports a framework of high-velocity sequences and plucked guitar-like sounds, simultaneously carrying a sense of threat but also a youthful vigour, like looking back on the adventure games you played as a child. ‘Into The Emerald Eye’ is perhaps the noisiest piece here, with squalling layers of angry noise that finally ebb away into the same stylistic terrain as the likes of ‘Love Her’.

What boycalledcrow and Xqui offer is a sense of narrative without once revealing the story, offering little more than glimpses of moments freighted with emotional, yet ephemeral significance. To do that within the context of ambient music is nothing short of remarkable.

The Art Of Whisper by Wonderful Beasts was released March 20 2020 by Wormhole World.

(c) 2020 Further.

Christian Wallumrød Ensemble – Many

As innovative as it is, modern classical music has settled into something of a comfortable pattern, with a relatively predictable interplay between acoustic instruments and electronics. What once felt like progressive, modernistic flourishes now feel familiar; there’s nothing wrong with this, per se, but with a few notable exceptions, it’s often easy to form an impression of what a modern classical album will sound like before you’ve even put it on.

One of those exceptions is Norwegian composer and ensemble leader Christian Wallumrød. After a series of celebrated albums for the venerable ECM label, alternative musical paths in his sibling electronic duo Brutter, and parallel time spent in the Dans Le Arbre quartet, Wallumrød released the brilliant Kurzsam And Fulger through Hubro in 2016. His is a modern classical that nudges into jazz territory without ever fully giving in to that movement’s improvisatory pedigree, creating music with an inherent fluidity that nods to traditions in its foundations, but which aggressively looks to more experimental territory for its final appearance.

Wallumrød’s new ensemble recording, Many, finds inspiration in the musique concrète innovations made by Pierre Schaeffer at the Groupe de Recherche Musicales in 1950s Paris or the early deployment of tape technology by John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen. What you won’t find here, however, are moments of forcibly-processed sound or intrusive technological gestures. This is an album which – at times – is heavily electronic without using heavy electronics, its reverential concession to musique concrète being some of its confounding, nonconformist rhythmic basis. A piece like ‘Danszaal’ with its chiming trumpet and saxophone passages from Eivind Lønning and Espen Reinertsen respectively progresses with a dizzying, stop-start judderiness that nevertheless carries subtle, microtonally shifting beauty. A similar effect is achieved on ‘Staccotta’, led by Wallumrød’s unswerving piano stabs and plucked cello, blasts of brass and a breakdown into pure electronics giving this a playful, elusive, ever-changing quality.

Elsewhere, that use of electronics is more prominent, and each of Wallumrød’s ensemble – himself, Lønning, Reinertsen, cellist Tove Törngren Brun and drummer / percussionist Per Oddvar Johansen – is credited with the use of electronics alongside their usual instrument. Opening track ‘Oh Gorge’ weaves sprinkles of bleeping, synths around Brun’s mesmeric cello cycles, the whole thing pushed through a heavy echo that gives any of the additional elements – Johansen’s vibraphone, Wallumrød’s upper register piano playing – a sense of spinning out from a turbulent vortex. ‘Abysm’ is perhaps the moment where the electronics take over, the whole piece dominated in the foreground by droning synth textures, effects, loops and a general feeling of wild experimentation, its discordant tendencies operating at odds with a prevailing sense of calm.

The key piece here, perhaps, is the fourteen-minute ‘El Johnton’, a series of three movements that begins with a strident piano, saxophone and brushed snare passage that sounds like the coda to a Billy Joel song, before evolving into something firmer and yet more free. The following section develops as a thrilling minimalist, electroacoustic sound field of electronic pulses, bursts of synthetic tones and arrays of metallic non-rhythms, offset with unpredictable acoustic interventions, almost as the extremest counterpoint to the opening passage; brief passages of that starting point’s piano section drift in and out like melodic memories, suggesting and forcing a connection between the two with the most unlikely sonic construction. By the time the original section is reprised, it feels altered somehow, less straight, its traditional structure sounding suddenly alien after being mauled, manipulated and brutally erased in the ten intervening minutes.

Many by the Christian Wallumrød Ensemble was released February 28 2020 by Hubro.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2020 Further.

Erlend Apneseth – Fragmentarium

Fragmentarium follows on from last year’s brilliant Salika, Molika album for the wonderful Hubro imprint. This new collection of seven delicately-assembled pieces finds Hardanger fiddle maestro Erlend Apneseth joined by Stein Urheim (guitar / bouzouki / electronics), Anja Lauvdal (piano / synth / electronics), Hans Hulbækmo (drums / percussion / flute), Fredrik Luhr Dietricshson (double bass) and Ida Løvli Hidle (accordion).

Opening with the mesmeric shapes of ‘Gangar’, Apneseth offers a rich tapestry of sounds straddling traditional Nordic folk forms with more modernistic flourishes – delicate synth sprinkles, arrangements that nod toward jazz and a sense of casual discordance. The album’s title track buzzes with an angry, claustrophobic noisiness punctured with layers of Jew’s harp and Apneseth’s evocative fiddle playing. Throughout that piece, and indeed across the whole album, we hear processed, floating voices drifting in and out, each one borrowed from the Norwegian folk museum in Prestfoss, creating an odd sensation of being adrift from time and place: who do these voices belong to? When were they recorded? What are they saying?

Apneseth’s skill is to ensure that his fiddle playing never stays too long in the mournful, stirring channel that it all-too-readily lends itself too. Here we find him offering playful, unexpected gestures and more aggressively-wrought passages, interspersed with sections that nod firmly in the direction of Nordic folk tradition. As a bandleader, he allows a sense of freedom and experimentation to develop among his accomplished group, resulting in incredibly tight playing but a flexible, evolving approach to composition.

The signature track on the album arrives in ‘Der mørknar’, a densely-packed sequence of heavy drones, fluctuating synths, spacey guitar riffs and expressive fiddle, all glued together with percussive restraint and plaintive piano clusters. The effect is one of constant, unresolved momentum, a feeling of pointing toward something that never quite arrives; in place of the wild pay-off, the track collapses into gentle fiddle shapes, a rare moment of introspection in an album that studiously avoids self-absorption.

Fragmentarium by Erlend Apneseth was released February 28 by Hubro.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2020 Further.

Jazzrausch Bigband – Beethoven’s Breakdown

The follow-up to last year’s Christmas album Still! Still! Still! and the reissue of 2018’s Dancing Wittgenstein, Beethoven’s Breakdown exemplifies what composer / arranger Leonhard Kuhn and bandleader Roman Sladek’s Jazzrausch Bigband do best: namely, creating large-scale sonic landscapes occupying the nexus of jazz, classical music and house music.

If that still seems unlikely, one cursory listen to the group’s arrangement of Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight’ sonata should help dispel any sort of notion that this is some sort of novelty hybrid. Here, the piece’s familiar melodic motif is interwoven with a thudding dance beat and freeform brass solos that swing gently on the framework of the composition, never detracting, but highlight this Munich-based sixteen-piece band’s dexterity within the jazz oeuvre. The major surprise are the small, subtly evolving circular sections running throughout the piece, creating a familiar sensation for anyone used to hearing the tweaked modulations of a minimal techno track, but here providing the connective tissue between that strain of dance music, Terry Riley and Ornette Coleman’s harmolodics. It perhaps shouldn’t work, but it does.

Beethoven’s Breakdown sees Kuhn and Sladek distinctively re-interpreting three Beethoven pieces – the aforementioned ‘Moonlight’ sonata, his Symphony No. 7 and the two-part String Quartet No. 14. Each one is delivered with the flair and sensitivity that Jazzrausch Bigband have become known for, in other words being respectful of the source material, the jazz tradition and the expected formalism of house while still allowing enough room for gentle improvisation. Leonhard Kuhn’s synths are deployed carefully, never detracting from the traditional jazz instrumentation but also providing interesting detail and colour throughout.

The album also includes a four-part sonata composed by Kuhn and featuring the trombone of Nils Landgren. This piece nods firmly in the direction of Beethoven but have more of an open, less densely-packed dimension that allows greater room for soloing – Landgren’s expressive trombone, the combined pianos of Severin Krieger and Kevin André Welch and Kuhn’s blipping electronics.

The element that is perhaps least appreciated, yet omnipresent, here is Silvan Strauß’s drum technique, wherein the entire album hinges on his ability to play unwavering robotic drum machine patterns and more complex polyrhythms, often alongside Kuhn’s programmed rhythms.

Beethoven’s Breakdown by Jazzrausch Bigband is released March 27 2020 by ACT Records.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2020 Further.