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Æthenor En Form for Blå Review

Album. Released 2011.  

BBC Review

Often remarkable adventures in surreal sonics from the genre-scrambling collective.

Mike Diver 2011

Given where constituents of this collective come from – Stephen O’Malley is best known for his involvement in inspirational/terrifying aural adventurers Sunn O))); Daniel O’Sullivan for folk-proggers Guapo and Mothlite’s sinister soundscapes; Kristoffer Rygg fronts Norwegian metal-turned-exploratory-electro combo Ulver; and Steve Noble has lit up the improvisational world with his drumming for a couple of decades – it’s no surprise that En Form for Blå is an album probably unsuitable for ears tuned to mainstream tastes. It’s a cavernous creation, echoing with dread and menace; squealing strings and rattling percussion present a rather dark design. But the more one stares at the endless black before them, the more detail becomes apparent in its depths.

Assembled from recordings made across three performances in Oslo, in 2010, this seven-track set unfolds slowly, sequenced in such a way that it draws the listener in with cunning craft rather than bells and whistles from the outset. Despite their disparate DNA strands, Æthenor nevertheless deliver a cohesive experience – one that takes tumbling turns and embarks upon furious forays into undiscovered sonic territories with great abandon, but that finds each tangent tied to a core that grounds everything within a loose framework of (relative) accessibility. If the aforementioned outfits do stir one’s soul, then the music here – expressive, ambitious, free-form, frankly frightening – will click, eventually. Time is of the essence, though; and it’s time that the foursome stretch, toying with one’s own perception of it as they shift through gears and textures.

The opening pair of Jocasta and One Number of Destiny in Ninety Nine run for nearly half an hour; yet, in their company, seconds feel like hours, hours like minutes, minutes like days. Everything becomes scrambled, as chimes bleed out from the blackness, as guitars moan as if beings of flesh and blood steadily having the life sucked from them. Something to Sleep is Still is rather more to the point duration-wise, Krautrock-y percussive chatter and buzzing, insect-like electronics proving hypnotic; Vivarium, meanwhile, hums a little like Fennesz plugging into the decaying amplifiers of Jesu. In terms of distinct parallels, though, there are few if any. Perhaps the Bergen-formed improv outfit Supersilent are similar in spirit, but their execution is rather different. At times the spaced-out drone of contemporary Kosmische artists like Emeralds can be heard; but, again, any such encounters are fleeting, as harmony soon gives way to discordance.

Unique: rarely meant, but here the only possible description for the sounds these four remarkable players emit.

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