Andreas Bertilsson: Paramount

Hanna Hartman: Ailanthus

Paramount's cover depiction of fossilized imprints in rock dovetails nicely with the release's ‘topographic' style of environmentally evocative sound sculpting and its temporal rootlessness. Bertilsson's half-hour piece navigates an unpredictable route as it flows through three sections of experimental sound sculpting. Juxtaposing peaceful moments of calm with passages of aggressive intensity, the one-time Son of Clay producer crafts compelling collages where natural sounds intermingle with industrial machine noises, field recordings, and human voices.

“Movement 1 (Plains of the Buffalo)” assembles crashing water sounds, squeaking noises, machine whirrs, seagull cries, whispered voices, and rumbles into a shape-shifting, oft-disturbing collage ( Paramount's production was complicated by severe computer breakdowns as well as by spiritual elements that Bertilsson believes infiltrated the recording process at the countryside house where the recording's final touches were being put into place). In “Movement 2 (Riding the Beast),” moments of silence alternate with organ tones before the onset of an aggressive percussion solo involving cymbals and toms and violent noises. “Movement 3 (A Moth to the Flame)” similarly begins peacefully with tinkling bells and a choir drone but detonates halfway through to end the piece in a writhing firestorm of blistering noise.

Created from sounds she has recorded around the world, Swedish sound artist Hanna Hartman's compositions are as extraordinary and as personalized as Bertilsson's. She too boldly displaces sounds from their original contexts and establishes newly meaningful connections by conjoining those sounds to others. Her latest release, Ailanthus (the term refers to a genus of trees also known as ‘poverty trees'), collects four shorter pieces composed during 2003-2006. Awarded several prizes including the prestigious Karl Sczuka Prize in 2005, “Att fälla grova träd är förknippat med risker” (“To fell trees is attended with risks”) alternates prolonged moments of silence with loud eating sounds, shouts, bowed string scrapes, and bird chirps. With its spotlight on breathy voice patterns, buzzing insects, deep-throated animal groans, and vocal chant, “Wespen Vesper” emphasizes utterance of human and non-human origin, while “Plåtmås” shifts the focus to the clatter and roar of percussion. “Musik för dansstycket jag glömmer bort” introduces a rhythmic dance dimension that's absent in the other three settings, though the piece's sonic mix—groans, tears, creaks, wipes, bird caws, and string strums—retains Hartman's remarkable signature.

June 2007