From his home in Norway, Lasse Marhaug has become a key player in international noise and experimental music, also forging solid free music connections, particularly through frequent collaboration with Paal Nilssen-Love: he’s a member of the drummer’s Large Unit, and they play together with saxophonist Ken Vandermark as Fire Room.
Marhaug also workes as a producer, notably of Jenny Hval’s Apocalypse Girl and Blood Bitch, both of which he produced and mixed – he even has a couple of songwriting credits on the former.
Kim Myhr (a member of Circadia and Mural) worked with Hval too, on last year’s understated, ambitious album In The End His Voice Will Be The Sound Of Paper. Otherwise he and Marhaug have very little shared history – they’d known each other for years, but they’d never worked together before they were jointly commissioned to produce an 8-channel piece for a Trondheim art biennale. The result was the first version of On the Silver Globe.
The album (on Myhr’s SOFA label) is a stereo version of that piece, distilled into less than 30 minutes of music, a suite in five parts recorded on analogue and modular synths, oscillators, electronics, ‘acoustic objects’ and Myhr’s guitar. It’s very much a studio production, crafted with careful attention nuance. Each movement is distinctive, but mines complimentary seams of mood and texture: it’s a very focused piece of work.
The title, incidentally, is borrowed from Andrzej Żuławski’s mid-70s science-fiction film (and the 1903 novel by his granduncle Jerzy Żuławski on which it was based), which was suppressed as a supposed allegory of struggle against totalitarian Communism. “Part 1” drops the listener directly into the flow of a grittily occluded drone, and the whole could broadly be labelled ‘dark ambient’ music, although the ambience is edgy and mutable.
That unstable drone is mixed with looping spirals of static crackle and machine thrum, which could be sourced from no-input turntablism and field-recorded third rail metro rumble, low end vibration and higher pitched machine hum.
“Part 1” feeds unbroken into “Part 2” then spreads outwards to enfold soft, throaty swelling noises – the sound of Matrixed pigeons or rotor hum – and etherial melodicism.
Drone dropped, the brief “Part 3” morphs from a loose, gravelly scrape and skitter, first into quease-inducing electronic stridulation, and then into the sort of guitar-based sci-fi electronica you’d hear between the main cuts of early 80s Hawkwind. Cue abrupt transitions into the steady drone reprise, scrunchy microsound scumble and amplified infinity roar of “Part 4” …
Which flows into “Part 5” on the introduction of a low bassnote pulse, while certain strands of that atomised roar coalesce into a sustained chiming presumably sourced from Myhr’s guitar. And as everything else dies away, that pulse resolves into something like the clunk of a pickup cartridge, bumping and scraping its orbit of an LPs locked runout groove.
On the Silver Globe plays as an arthouse sci-fi audio-drama, images painted in sound, a concentrated narrative that expands the listener’s perception of duration and dimensionality. But it also plays just fine as music.