Posted on Mar 19th 2012 12:38 am
Rune Grammofon 2012
25 Tracks. 153mins30secs
Normally purveyors of refined intricate electro-acoustic music, Norwegian duo Alog adopted a very different approach with their latest record, deliberately leaving some pieces in an unfinished, unpolished state, and leaving their overall working processes much more to chance. They recorded with a handful of contributors (Sigbjørn Apeland, Jenny Hval, Sheriffs Of Nothingness, Jaap Blonk), reworking and incorporating some of their compositions into their own. During the three years they spent recording, Espen Sommer Eide and Dag-Are Haugan collected a wealth of material. In its full expanded glory, Unemployed stretches over four LPs and nearly three hours, with its edited CD version still clocking at seventy-six minutes.
Most of the tracks featured on the first and second LPs are also included on the CD, apart for Kompass and Leisure. The former is, like the pieces that surround it on the second side of the first LP, a particularly delicate and bare composition which is built from tiny sonic components, some barely substantial enough to be heard by the naked ear. The piece is at times particularly fragmented, its musical aspect failing to materialise for more than a few moments at a time. Leisure sits in a less tightly connected set of tracks, however it shares with Januar a more purely electronic approach and a hypnotic feel which is somewhat reminiscent of the Kosmische sound of Tangerine Dream or Ashra Tempel.
September opens up an entirely new world for Alog. The first piece of the fourth LP, composed and performed by The Sheriffs Of Nothingness, is quite a hectic, dense and ominous track centred around swirling recurring motifs played on Hardanger fiddles and violins which continuously ebbs and flows through its course. Alog’s contribution is here quite unclear, but it is much more felt on the following pieces, from the desolate wind-swept landscape of Working The Streets Of San Francisco and Landstrykere, where the pair assemble fragments of acoustic sounds and electronics, to the more pastoral settings of Piraeus, with its haunting shimmering soundscapes through which a voice occasionally appears to pierce. Things become more intense again on the last side, especially on the hazy and distorted Avis, which leads to the odd and hypnotic Bømlo Brenn Om Natta, where Dutch poet Jaap Blonk is made to deliver words in Norwegian, a language he doesn’t speak.
The third LP is in itself an oddity on this released. The only of the four LPs not to be pressed on white vinyl, it is in fact a solo effort from Dag-Are Haugan. Originally planned as the follow-up to his 2002 album 9 Solitaires, published as a limited LP on (K-RAA-K)3, these three tracks, entitled Solitaire 10, 11 and 12, are extremely sparse modular synthesis experiments, which are, for the most part simple clusters of slowly evolving electronics. On Solitaire 10 Haugan appears to purposely distort whatever tiny spec of sound he has at his disposal, as the piece’s fragile structure threatens to collapse upon itself. At one point, a voice can be briefly heard amongst the set of electronic texture, but it disappears as unexpectedly as it had appeared. Later on, the piece evolves into a more robust formation, sounding like a spellbinding collage of radio signals and odd tape experiments. Build around muted textured loops and clusters of percussive noises, Solitaire 11 is a more substantial, yet equally as intriguing piece, but it is with the side-long Solitaire 12 that Haugan creates his most fascinating composition. Caught between deafening silences and extremely sparse electronics, there is something very evocative of 2001: A Space Odyssey about it, its detailed components, their envelops slowly altered, making it by far the most introspective, yet intensely psychedelic, piece of this whole album.
In its fully expanded version, Unemployed is an even more fascinating release than on its much shorter CD incarnation. It is also a more fragmented listening experience, each side appearing to focus on just a few aspects of Alog’s vast sonic experiment. It is also, by its format, a much more modular listen, allowing to be played in whichever combination suits the listener best. Above all, this complete version shows Alog at their most playful and inquisitive to date.
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