BJ Nilsen: Fade to White

BJ Nilsen's Fade to White might be the quintessential Touch album. Consider: Nilsen generated its six pieces using outdoor field recordings archived from travels in Poland, Estonia, Serbia Herzegovina, Romania, and Italy during 2003, plus indoor recordings from 2004 visits to Sweden, Belgium, Netherlands, Austria, and Switzerland. Returning home to Stockholm, Sweden, he then blended and layered the material using computer, transforming it into pieces of richly textured droning ambiance. Fade to White is BJ Nilsen's third Touch release, following his Hazard outing Land and Live at the Konzerthaus, Vienna (plus there are three Hazard recordings issued on Ash International).

The album tone is set immediately by the ten-minute “Purple Phase” whose faint opening rumbles are replaced after three minutes by an organ drone that rapidly intensifies until it seethes, all the while gradually augmented by all kinds of snarling detritus. With its tactile array of abstracted fly buzzings, wave crashings, and assorted scuppered noises, “Dead Reckoning” reveals Nilsen's affinity for soundscapes, though the even more striking instance is “Grappa Polar” where erupting stutters and muffled horns coalesce into a haunting alien soundscape of insectile nattering and ethereal thrum.

Nilsen maintains interest throughout by countering the drone's static dimension with perpetual developing fields of activity, “Let me know when it's over” a case in point. Organ murmurings begin the piece familiarly enough but suddenly the left channel drops out, momentarily highlighting the punctuation of what resembles processed church bells before the left channel joins in with a similar sound, the result a multi-layered droning field of smothered washes that crackle and snuffle as they slowly morph into a wavering, buzzing drone. An even better example is the album's fifteen-minute epic “Nine ways till Sunday.” As one would expect, the piece slowly mutates, opening with soft buzzing skittering over a gentle drone before delicate cymbal-like simmer joins in, the sound field gradually expanding to include delicate acoustic filigrees and keyboard glistenings. At the halfway mark, a deep bass tone pierces the field's centre and escalates in intensity alongside organ glimmerings and static noise. The piece continues to slowly evolve until it abruptly drops out at the twelve-minute mark, replaced by the quiet processed sounds of what might be outdoor rustlings, lamb bleating, and church bells.

March 2005