Alexander Rishaug: Possible Landscape

Possible Landscape is electronic sound artist Alexander Rishaug's second album, following upon Panorama released in 2002. Hailing from Oslo, Norway, the new release features seven droning, ambient soundscapes ranging between five and thirteen minutes. Rishaug constructed the pieces on computer using field recordings and self-performed instruments as source materials. To his credit, the music retains an unpredictable quality throughout yet never feels random or undirected; often a looping base grounds the more wayward and meandering sonic activity overlaid on top of it. The two longer pieces are indicative of the album's general sound. The twelve-minute “Or L!” opens with organ drones alongside soft skipping patterns that drift in and out, occasionally interrupted by brief hiccups. In this slowly developing soundscape, rumbles surface halfway through and the organ becomes a single extended tone. As the tempo increases, the mood becomes more unsettled with ringing patterns and creaking noises, before it ends with flurries of surges, burbles, and clicks. Even longer, the mesmeric, almost psychedelic coda “My Favorite Place” features an extended organ drone accompanied by panning rhythmic clicks and querulous bird noises that rabidly escalates near the end but then finishes peacefully. The other five tracks offer variations on this general theme, with “Dual Appearance” in particular memorable for its lovely concluding section of melancholy ambience. Midway through the recording, however, disquiet begins to emerge as an awareness of stylistic sameness and predictability sets in. The skipping patterns and glitchy stutter that appear throughout reveal an Oval influence which is ultimately too dominant, and the pairing of meandering organ patterns with said elements settles too noticeably into a recurring template. Possible Landscape inarguably shows Rishaug to be a skilled and credible member of the ambient digital ranks, but the album's weakened by its clear similarities to Markus Popp's Oval sound and the excessive use of its organ-skipping combination.

September 2004