Alog: Miniatures
Rune Grammofon

Rune Grammofon maintains its sterling rep with this third album from Alog, the group formed by Norwegians Espen Sommer Eide (aka Phonophani) and Dag-Are Haugan in 1997. Alluding to their creative approach, the duo's moniker conflates (digit)Al and (ana)log into a single term, with Eide focusing on their music's digital side and Haugan the analog; accordingly, they humanize their repetitive, machine-generated structures with acoustic sounds and field elements. Behind the hammering vibes patterns and acoustic guitar in “Buffalo Demon,” for example, one hears the noisy clatter and bellowing voices of a bar or restaurant, while the loose-limbed “Leyden Jar” approximates the cacophony of a Times Square traffic jam.

If the longest piece, the thirteen-minute meditation “Building Instruments,” pushes this humanizing dimension to too great an extreme (its opening minutes are little more than throat clearings, shuffling footsteps, and musicians settling in), it at least puts a human face on a music often lacking it; in fact, it might be the album's most naturalistic composition, with its latter half emphasizing off-key vocal musings alongside gently wheezing harmonium tones, string bowings, and acoustic guitar picking.

Alog distills its numerous influences into personalized and unusual configurations that are elastically stretched throughout. While early Philip Glass (circa North Star) is evoked by cycling organ flurries in “Steady Jogging of the Heart” and “Pesce Spada,” the duo creates a unique stylistic collage in the latter by adding bruised squalls and tribal drum patterns to the organ elements. Virtually every track is memorable for one reason or another: the Takemura-like sea of droning tones and churning machine stabs that gradually swells, decompresses peacefully, and hypnotically expires in “Severe Punishment and Lasting Bliss,” the Steve Reich-meets-Tortoise fusion of staccato guitar strums with vibraphone pings in “St. Paul Sessions II,” and the incredible marriage of Ovalesque stutter with Latin percussion and sparse funk beats in “The Youth of Mysterious Conversations.”

While the album's title might suggest microtonal minimalism, it apparently refers to Turkish miniature paintings and their mysterious patterns of radiantly coloured objects—a much more fitting analogue to Alog's bold and fluid sound that Miniatures captures so memorably.

May 2005