“Divided”, the opening track Owl Splinters, sounds immediately familiar, with its scraping cello and haunting atmosphere. It treads perilously close to the sacred ground that Richard Skelton has staked claim to, but with a more ominous dark ambient slant. Inevitably, the track frames your expectations for what is to come and my first thought was that a relentless gloom was sure follow. The kind of one-note hammering that too often characterizes music of this ilk in my opinion. How many times do you really want to listen to 50 minutes of non-stop black and slightly varying shades of gray? But it turns out that there’s more to this album than that. The Norwegian duo of Erik Skodvin (aka Svarte Greiner) and Otto Totland (aka Nest) offer a broader range of colors on Owl Splinters, their second full-length album, following the celebrated Pale Ravine in 2005.
Yes, the mood is generally melancholic. But the dark is interspersed with pure beauty and bursts of light. Sandwiched between “Divided” and the palpable tension of “New Beginning (Tidal Darkness)”, the crystalline piano tones of “Time Spent” stand out in stark relief. Throughout the album, Totland’s refined piano pushes against Skodvin’s rugged and primitive cello drones, waging an interesting tug of war. It gives the album an ebb and flow that is moving and compelling. And the intimacy of the recording adds to the intensity. On “Time Spent”, you can here the piano keys being struck and the pedal being engaged. It’s as if you’re sitting there on the piano stool right next to Totland, watching his fingers glide across the keyboard.
Brock Van Wey's new album lives up to its mystical name. It's an awe inspiring edifice in its own right even though the architecture of this aural citadel is essentially quite simple. The tracks are mostly built around short phrases or patterns that are repeated over and over again for an average of 10 minutes. So this is no prog rock labyrinth. The complexity lies elsewhere, in the building materials themselves - the textures - and how they are layered together to create a sumptuously rich tapestry of sound that seems imbued with a divine spirit.
As far as I can gather, Temple of Silence is a name used for places of meditation. Incredibly apt for what you experience listening to this mesmerizing music. The hypnotic repetition, slow build up and increasingly complex soundscapes draw you into a deep trance if you let them. The opening track, "A Quiet Doorway Awaits", ushers you into this place of power. By the middle of the second track, "The Past Disappears", the present and future have also evaporated and you feel like you've left this mortal coil behind.
I have to admit, the first couple of times I listened to the album I had a hard time staying awake. First of all, because I'm probably not getting enough sleep these days. But also because you can't help but just completely relax and let go listening to this album. It's magical.
One of the sensations of the year, New Yorker Nicholas Jaar is being likened to Aphex Twin when he first emerged on the scene. The kind of singular talent that immediately stands apart. Jaar’s first full-length album, Space is Only Noise, is hard to describe. It sure doesn’t sound the like the work of a 20-year old. It’s so confident in a lazy, burned out, lived in, melancholic kind of way. Recalling hot and sticky summer days in the big city, the music just barely has the energy to get up and go at times. Dashes of jazz piano here, Middle Eastern flavours there... Plus horns, splashing waves and an intriguing cast of voices, all percolating at a slow and sultry simmer. Now and then the flame comes close to being extinguished. But Jaar is one to watch.