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Skyphone Fabula Review

Album. Released 2004.  

BBC Review

More Nordic electronic meanderings courtesy of the wonderful Rune Grammofon label...

Colin Buttimer 2004

On first listen Fabula might seem almost unremarkable but for its gentle appeal. There are few abrasive edges to grab the listener by the collar and yank them to attention. Instead, hearing Fabula may induce a feeling of relaxation, a desire to sit back and dream. Elements of delicate intrigue and a generous spaciousness tempt the listener to return to their recumbent state again and again. On these repeat visits, subtle qualities gradually reveal themselves which were initially almost imperceptible.

This is one of the distinctive elements of Skyphone's music: that it appears to have been actively played by musicians and the result gifts the listener with all the possibilities of in-the-moment chance and variation that that brings. Interest is maintained, even increased by these details which are graduallly uncovered over time.

"In Our Time"'s liquid melodies have all the plasticity of a droplet filmed in slow motion as it hits the surface of a bowl of milk. "Mengnapeel" traces out a friendly tune with toytown sounds shadowed by tictac(toe) pulses. "Sinne Gas" sounds a note of longing against a rhythm like the thrumming of thoughtful fingers on a tabletop. "Kinamand's Choice" might be incidental music for an Italian cyber-espionage thriller.

Throughout, sinuous guitar notes thread through and shade keyboard melodies. The percussion sounds like the sudden buzz of dragonfly wings. The prevailing mood is limpid and gentle like the memory of hot summer days, though there are sombre moments like the threat of thunderclouds on the horizon.

There are occasional hints of Boards of Canada's lambent qualities - though without the hiphop references or much of the paranoia - and there are subtle traces of Tortoise in the simple guitar figures and the rare suggestion of a filmic melody. Fabula is endearing because it communicates an understated feeling of being at peace with itself without inducing somnambulence.

Kim Hiorthoy's trademark Rune Grammofon sleeve design rejects the hazy imagistic suggestiveness of Skyphone's music and instead chooses a curved vector design which contains its own subtleties - implied heartshapes, the framing of the title, etc.

Certain track titles give clues to the settings and concerns of Skyphone - "Brine", "Gossamer", "Into Hill Country", "Monitor Batik". While walking in the interior of a hot country you stumble upon a small, secluded lake. On an impulse you strip off all your clothes, swim into the centre of the lake and turn onto your back. You float there feeling the hot sun on your body, the blue sky filtering through your closed eyelids. Fabula.

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