Nattavaara Rocks: Ox Choral
Seismic Waves

Had I not known otherwise, I would have guessed that I was listening to unreleased Talvihorros material whilst listening to Nattavaara Rocks' Ox Choral. The eight pieces Andreas Norberg has included on this impressive twenty-six-minute EP are indeed reminiscent of the guitarcentric music Ben Chatwin has issued under his own alias, and, needless to say, that's a good thing. Though the Umeå, Sweden-based Norberg cites Grouper, The National, Emeralds, Richard Skelton, and Birchville Cat Motel as influences, any project that involves the creation of “texturized and layered pieces of guitar based folk/drone/ambient through the use of effect pedals, loopers, e-bow, and arpeggiated chords” is probably going to have as much in common with Talvihorros as any other artist.

Having been preceded by 2007's Linger Through a Winter, 2009's File Under Debris, and 2012's Ghosts Move Through, Ox Choral certainly suggests that Norberg's music has undergone extensive refinement in the eight years since his first release. While guitar is a central element, other instruments play equally important roles, and one comes away from the recording impressed by the breadth of its sonic palette. Organ, piano, vibraphone, and strings add considerably to the richness of the soundworld presented, but all such sounds are utilized in the service of the composition in question. During “Blind Kites Circling,” Norberg augments the swoop of an e-bow guitar with portentous rumblings and ethereal mellotron washes in a manner that invites comparison to Popol Vuh. Similarly buoyed by e-bow guitars, “Monoliths” achieves a kind of spectral grandeur in its emotional outpouring, while “As Their Bodies Slowly Sank,” in keeping with its title, is as plaintive in spirit as one might expect and not a little unlike a prototypical Grouper instrumental.

Not everything on Ox Choral is so weighted with dystopian drama, as shown by the quietly uplifting vignette “Forest Hollows” and Aguirre -like meditation “Minor Singing.” But regardless of whether a piece is dramatic or not, the recording speaks highly on behalf of Norberg's gifts as an arranger, instrumentalist, and composer.

July-August 2015