This week, what I’ve listened to, helpfully listed in ascending order:
5. Jaga Jazzist – One-Armed Bandit
4. Kaito – Trust
3. Various Artists – Pop Ambient 2010
2. Four Tet – There Is Love In You
1. BJ Nilsen – The Invisible City
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I have gone for a new Touch release this week as my personal favourite. BJ Nilsen’s work for me has been a bit hit and miss so far, with the occasional outstanding piece mixing up against some pretty standard ambient stuff, but The Invisible City is much more focused and consistent. The shorter tracks like Phase and Amplitude and Scientia combine an
effective blend of constructed ambient textures with field recordings from across the globe (Iceland, Sweden etc.) with the resulting sound a compelling one, belying the miniature duration. The standout track for me is the 15 minute Virtual Resistance, which begins life as a haze of reversing peaks that subside in to a chilling pulse of cello and synth, punctuated by a distorted guitar which oscillates across the stereo spectrum, with the crunch of pebbles underfoot. It’s wonderfully produced, with real attention to the details in each sound, particularly the field recordings that include a chair being dragged across a room and some kind of ship hitting a harbour wall, recorded under water (well…that’s how it sounds…it could be something else entirely). The only down side is the title track, which sadly falls back in to the aforementioned ambient trope of earlier work, but this is a small disappointment in comparison to the work as a whole.
Four Tet’s new album is more straightforward than the Everything Ecstatic, in that he’s pulled back the unnecessary layers and focused on making sure all the individual elements work as a whole. He has clearly benefited from his time spent with Steve Reid and Burial, as the tunes feature occasional percussive flourishes and distorted vocal samples, adding a new depth missing from earlier work where the intent was seemingly more in favour of cramming as much in as possible. The beats are pretty much 4/4 throughout, but this isn’t a problem because the synth lines and bass work so effectively to shape the songs. I think this is the sort of record that will work as a good introduction to Four Tet, before moving to more cluttered release.
Pop Ambient 2010 was a disappointment. BVDub’s tracks are the best thing here, as expected, and with the notable exception of Jurgen Paape’s 864M with its haunting brass line and distant percussion, the tracks are two or three samples worked together with a bit of delay/reverb. Perhaps this opinion has developed as a result of listening to this record after Nilsen’s (much like the mistake I made last week), but there seems little to delineate the contributions.
Jaga Jazzist’s album is all over the place. The production is an unpleasant fuzz, the arrangements are complicated for little more than the sake of doing so, and the tiny tricks and twists of previous albums have been left out in favour of making a record that sounds like Jaga, rather than one that is made by them. Kaito’s album is not much better. The production is pedestrian, the arrangements are streamlined and in doing so lack any real flair or imagination. All in all a mixed week. I’ll choose more
carefully next week.