Posted on Feb 19th 2007 09:46 pm

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Chris Watson / BJ Nilsen: Storm

Touch 2007
03 Tracks. 50mins09secs

Back in 2000, Swedish musician recorded a series of storms over the Baltic sea, and consequently suggested that him and fellow Touch sound artist Chris Watson coolaborate on a project focusing on weather conditions.

Watson, once of pioneering electronic outfit Cabaret Voltaire and, later, of The Hafler Trio, is an established wildlife recordist, who has, beside his three albums for Touch, worked for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and recorded nature for a variety of wildlife programs for the BBC. After a few years away from the music scene, he returned in 1996 with his first solo album for Touch, Stepping Into The Dark, which was built from recordings he had made all around the world during previous years.

Stockholm-based Benny Jonas Nilsen first emerged in the early nineties under the pseudonym of Morthond (later Morthound), with his debut album, The Crying Age, published on Swedish imprint Cold Meat Industry when he was just fifteen. Nilsen reinvented himself as Hazard in the mid nineties and released a handful of ambient records for Malignant, Ash International and Touch, before eventually publishing music under his own name.

Storm features three extended tracks, with Watson claiming No Man’s Land, which opens, and Nilsen Austrveg, which closes the album, the pair collaborating on the middle track, SIGWX. The two solo tracks span just over fifteen minutes each while the middle piece clocks in at just under nineteen minutes. Each piece is based on a series of recordings made on the artists’ respective coastlines and documenting everything from wildlife (especially in Watson’s piece) to sea conditions, wind and storms.

Watson’s recordings were made on the North East coast of England and Scotland, during October and November, between 2000 and 2005 and present a rather active series of soundscapes, with vast colonies of sea birds drowned in an increasing cacophony as they get more agitated, rough seas and animal noises. The latter bring an organic, almost human, dimension to the piece, especially in the second half when Watson introduces recordings made in a cave.

Nilsen’s piece is built from recordings made on Gotland and Öland, two neighbouring islands situated in the South East of Sweden. Here, Nilsen focuses primarily on the evolution of weather patterns and the impact it has on his environment. As sounds of waves breaking on the shores, strong winds and rain appear to constantly battle for supremacy, an underlying rhythmic pattern slowly emerges, with organic loops spreading over several minutes as the elements take it in turn to dominate.

Taking its name from a weather forecast term indicating significant weather, SIGWX sees Watson and Nilsen bring their respective recordings together and confront their findings, from various life forms to evolving weather patterns and environmental noises. Watson’s meticulous formations provide a rich backdrop for Nilsen’s more exposed recordings, resulting in an exceedingly dense and dramatic piece.

Despite the apparent simplicity of this record, Watson and Nilsen present here an incredibly detailed and vibrant document, which not only charts landscapes and weather conditions, but also captures a myriad of particles of wildlife and places them in a very particular context. These three sequences are extremely vivid and realistic, leaving the listener to wonder whether they may be experiencing these for real.

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