Anders Dahl: Doorbells
Bombax Bombax

Skogen: Skogen
Bombax Bombax

Bombax Bombax, a new label entrant in the experimental sound sweepstakes, is the brainchild of Swedish artists Anders Dahl, Magnus Granberg, Maria Hägglund, and Erik Carlsson. That they've previously issued material on labels such as Häpna and Kning Disk provides an immediate indication of the explorative, left-field music-making the producers' collective imprint intends to specialize in. Available in limited amounts (165 handmade, screen-printed copies), inaugural releases by Anders Dahl and Skogen are described as “modestly exuberant”—a curious choice of words perhaps but not inaccurate.

Certainly Skogen's self-titled release doesn't come barreling out of the gate but instead begins quietly and then just as restrainedly grows in the number of instruments involved and the level of interaction between them. The CD contains a single, thirty-nine-minute piece composed by Granberg that resembles a slowly unfolding group improv featuring five musicians: Carlsson (drums, percussion), Granberg (piano), Henrik Olsson (bowls, cymbals, electronics), Leo Svensson (cello), and Petter Wästberg (objects, electronics). Granberg is the organizing center who ensures the ship stays on course and upright while the others maintain a constant interaction that's conversational, sensitive, and rather gentlemanly. While the five could work up a blistering wail, they largely choose to shape their collective sound in the opposite direction, and sometimes even to near-silence (admittedly the final quarter brings some degree of heightened activity). Throughout the piece, electronic rustling, minimal dabs of piano, cello plucks, and gamelan bell tones unhurriedly intermingle. An accompanying poem states that “(g)ently they will take your hand and guide you to get lost”—an apt characterization of Skogen's modus operandi. It's a “close listening” work that's best heard via headphones.

The same applies to Anders Dahl's Doorbells, an hour-long collection whose three track titles give a strong hint of their content all by themselves: “Doorbells, feedback, tapes, electronics,” “Doorbell, tuning fork, crotale, clarinet, recorder, pitch pipe, bouzouki, guitar, electronics,” and “Doorbell, electronics, toy piano, sitar, tapes.” They're immersive, long-form sound worlds of constantly mutating character where electrical tones stretch for minutes on end while manipulated sounds converse using sometimes industrially-tinted phraseology. The second piece benefits from the inclusion of acoustic sounds such as woodwinds whose overlap turns them into droning pedal points. During its twenty-minute reign, bell tones cross paths with electronic fuzz and exhalations of varying character. An unexpected interval of silence occurs halfway through before high-pitched electrical tones re-emerge which are slowly fleshed out by gamelan strikes and other engine-like noises. Though occasional sounds of relatively more natural character appear, the third piece is more brutally electronic in character in its first half and dominated by the cold fusion of sputtering noise patterns and rumbling splatter. Thankfully, the second half brings the piece down to a less tumultuous level to end the album more peacefully.

November 2008