Posted on Jul 20th 2010 01:04 am
Rune Grammofon 2010
12 Tracks. 55mins55secs
Phonophani, the project of multi-instrumentist and digital artist Espen Sommer Eide, is back with a fourth serving of expressionist electro-acoustic experimentations, and this time, Sommer Eide has turned his attention to Norwegian folklore, using traditional instruments as sound sources and building them into the fabric of his record.
Sommer Eide is, amongst other things, one half of the excellent Alog, a project he founded with Dag-Are Haugan in 1997 and with who he has released five albums, four of which published on Rune Grammofon, and a number of EPs. Running in parallel, Phonophani has had for main objective to bring together acoustic and electronic instrumentation and explore the strange world that is brought to life as they meet. This has led to three radically different records, from the hypnotic orchestral textures of his self-titled debut, originally released in 1998 on Geir Jenssen’s Biophon imprint and re-released on Rune Grammofon four years ago, to the much more fragmented abstraction of Genetic Engineering (2001) and the often abrasive and angular Oak Or Rock (2004).
Kreken is much more melodic and rustic, and, while stemming from a similar intense processing to its predecessors, demonstrates a much more open approach. With each piece named after a particular place in Norway, Kreken is perhaps Sommer Eide’s most personal record to date. It is also his richest and most complex. The acoustic nature of his sound sources is apparent throughout, and tints the record with beautiful tonal nuances, from the earthy drones of a violin or the stern thuds of a drum to the spritely élans of a flute, but these are submitted to intense processing, often distorting them or warping them beyond recognition. Layered into fragile formations, these take on an infinite number of shapes, from the spellbinding jig of Kvaale II or the wonderful textures of the title track to the warm accordion motif of closing piece Ilka, and contribute greatly to make Kreken an extremely colourful and pastoral work.
Like on Genetic Engineering and Oak Or Rock before it, Sommer Eide occasionally incorporates the human voice into this record. Providing contributions here are Jenny Hval, a Norwegian singer-songwriter who usually performs as Rockettothesky, on Mendel and Blåflat, Japanese sound artist Haco, on Gubijinso, and classically-trained Swedish mezzosoprano Agnethe Christensen, a singer equally at ease with modern classical, early vocal music or folk, on Neverdal. Hval’s two appearances are almost at opposite ends. On Mendel, the voice is left almost untouched and is, in the later part, layered into ethereal harmonies, but is processed quite heavily on Blåflat, and buried much deeper into the mix to appear more at once with the soundscape. Haco’s syncopated performance is much more intriguing, but there is on Gubijinso a flavour of sugar-coated pop which is quite unique in Sommer Eide’s work, while Neverdal draws on much more visceral feelings and proves to be one of the most emotionally rich and intense moments of the record. Other contributors to the record include multi-instrumentist David Grubbs, who provides sombre stabs of electric guitar on Morki, while Sigbjørn Apeland’s soft harmonium brushes, placed over light distortions, give Nold a somewhat nocturnal touch.
A true original and an inspired artist, Espen Sommer Eide has once again created with Kreken a work that is like no other, and while he in essence sticks to a formula which has until now proven extremely successful, his approach is totally different, and pushes into territories he has never ventured in before. He has, with every new Phonophani record, become more confident in his method. This record is the work of a visionary musician at his creative peak.
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