Alog Duck-Rabbit Review

Released 2001.  

BBC Review

...confirming Alog as one of modern music's most interesting groups.

Dan Hill 2002

Alog's 1999 debut release Red Swing Shift is still one of the most rewarding albums of the last few years, and Duck-Rabbit turns out to be a more than worthy successor. It emerged from tours of Red Swing Shift; Dag-Are Haugan and Espen Sommer Eide recorded their after-show improvisations, providing the raw material for this new collection.

The title refers to the Gestalt psychology figure of a duck, or a rabbit, depending on how you view it. And this studious pair of Scandinavian David Lynches constantly toy with your perception alright; sounds remain still only for seconds, ducks become rabbits become ducks becoming ... improvised live playing becoming hissing tape loops becoming mannered minimalism becoming Northern European electronica ...

As their name suggests, it's both digitAL and analOGue, with Haugan's wheezing analogue equipment conjuring sounds akin to their labelmates' reworkings of Norwegian avant-garde legend Arne Nordheim; other times Eide's laptop munches through found-sound samples, generating flat washes of muted colour.

The result is hugely seductive, demanding your attention in gritty arhythmic fits and starts. They neatly avoid any cliched pigeonholes of 'icy Scandinavian electronica' - it's often more in concert with Anti-Pop Consortium's twisted scabrous electro than Biosphere's dazzling northern lights, say.

There are less of the sumptuous loops which characterised Red Swing Shift; or rather, they're concealed more. When they do emerge, as on "Fire's For Burning", it's quite lovely, particularly counterposed with what sounds like the irregular hammering of typewriter keys, perhaps lifted from Godard's fingers on Histoire Du Cinema. Alog even breathe new life into the overused Apple Mac voice synthesizer. Here it is really made to sing, as on the heartrending "Violence and Magical Danger". It's never sounded fitter, happier.

Haugan and Eide's instrumental skill is all context and arrangement rather than obvious virtuosity, yet both can play. The marvellously-named "As Complicated And As Beautiful As Always" features stunning distortion and feedback, and the album ends with the charming John Fahey-like faux-naive guitar of "Drunk DJ's", departing with quiet Scandinavian grace.

Kim Hiorthøy's sublime graphics adorn the cover, another Rune Grammofon gem. This is a label on top of its game, and this is a genuinely beautiful album, confirming Alog as one of modern music's most interesting groups.

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