BJARNI GUNNARSSON: SAFN 2006-2009/EINÓMA: Tvenna (Lamadameaveclechien)


Posted on Nov 11th 2010 11:06 pm

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Bjarni Gunnarsson: SAFN 2006-2009 Einóma: Tvenna

SAFN 2006-2009
Lamadameaveclechien 2010
07 Tracks. 49mins23secs

Tvenna EP
Lamadameaveclechien 2010
02 Tracks. 21mins20secs

Bjarni Gunnarsson is an Icelandic musician hailing from Reykjavik who has primarily been active as part of electronic duo Einóma, a project he founded almost ten years ago with long term friend Steindór Grétar Kristinsson, and under which banner they have released a handful of albums and EPs on Vertical Form, Uni:form and Trachanik. His debut solo album, enigmatically entitled SAFN 2006-2009, is released in an extremely limited handmade CD edition on Belgian imprint Lamadameaveclechien

While its title could lead to think that this album is actually a collection of unreleased material presumably recorded between 2006 and 2009, it remains unclear whether this is indeed the case. Regardless, this is a very impressive record, and a very consistent one at that. In just seven tracks of stark minimal abstract electronic compositions, spread over nearly fifty minutes, Gunnarsson creates an incredibly complex and haunting sonic universe with very few equals around. His soundscapes are often broken and twisted, fragmented into vibrant sub-sections, themselves articulated around tiny sonic particles and miniature themes. Each of these tracks work on so many levels that it is difficult to actually grasp what is really going on in one seating, yet the way Gunnarsson presents all this is so extremely attractive that it doesn’t actually matter much.

Working from sound sources which include acoustic instruments, percussive sounds, environmental noises, processed vocals and distorted electronics, Gunnarsson sets off on a journey which takes him deep into dark and rugged terrains, where nothing is exactly as it seems or really behaves as it should. This could be what the constant tectonic shifts deep beneath the Earth’s crust actually sound like. Far from being a pastoral record, SAFN 2006-2009 is disturbing, extremely dense and tortured. It is also a haunting and hypnotic piece of work, which, once it has grabbed hold of its listener, never lets go. After a period of acclimation, how these tracks are actually assembled, or for which exact purpose, become totally irrelevant. Instead, the finer details and multitude of layers and sub-layers start to get more in focus, revealing the underlying cinematic aspect of Gunnarsson’s work.

Right from the opening moments of Aftur, the listener is subjected to an assault of statics, threatening noises, unsightly electronics and thunderous percussive slabs. The mood never veers much from this, whether the soundscapes are temporarily softened with ghostly female vocals (Blindni), injected with recordings of wildlife and intricate noise formations (Dried Up), subjected to the regular pounding of a minimal beat (Time Out) or caught in a dense electrical storm (Fingrafjall). As the album progresses, it is as if Gunnarsson was constantly reiterating the nature of his sonic constructions, ensuring that each aspect of the record remains perfectly in sync with the rest for maximum impact.

Also released on Lamadameaveclechien, the latest Einóma EP, Tvenna, is in comparison a more welcoming affair. Based around fairly minimal linear techno beats and equally sparse soundscapes, the two tracks making this EP, each clocking at over ten minutes, are much more straightforward, yet there is something of the density found on Gunnarsson’s solo work infiltrating the tensed musical structures on offer. Here though, this serves the evolutive nature of these tracks. Driven by a relentless beat and a metallic groove, Minióma is the most upbeat of the two, its highly mechanised rhythm set on a seemingly unstoppable path. While the pace slows down for a time half way through, to open up on a much more subtle atmospheric groove, it soon picks up again but becomes slightly less predictable, stumbles upon itself, picks up again before eventually losing momentum entirely. Stepóma initially seems harsher, more abrupt and concussed, more arid too, led by a post industrial metallic beat, but the more complex aspect of the track makes it even more subject to drastic rhythmic and atmospheric shifts than its predecessor, especially as the intensity of the whole structure becomes more potent toward the end.

While these two releases are in essence rather different from each other, there is a common thread which ultimately keeps them intimately linked. It is with his solo album that Bjarni Gunnarsson impresses the most though. Its dark, mangled electronics and broken organic soundscapes are so utterly complex yet so fascinating, making this an outstanding record from beginning to end.

SAFN 2006-2009: 5/5 Tvenna: 4.2/5

Bjarni Gunnarsson | Bjarni Gunnarsson (MySpace) | Einóma (MySpace) | Lamadameaveclechien

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