Eriksen / Toft / Utarm: Penumbra Booming

Skagen / Halvorsen / Toft: H5N1

In addition to Roggbif's noise releases, the Norwegian label also issues some pretty impressive drone music, some of which is nicely represented on the recent collections H5N1 (Avian or Bird Flu) and Penumbra Booming, with the two discs splitting seven pieces between five Norwegian sound artists.

In “Static,” H5N1's opener, Stian Skagen (Ryfylke member) generates scalpel-sharp waves that gradually turn ever-more threatening as they increase in volume and density. Despite the aggressive ambiance, Skagen never lets the piece veer out of control yet still allows its noise level to escalate. MNH's (Morten Norbye Halvorsen) “Ext-Hd” pursues a steadier line by pitching the volume and intensity levels at a consistent mid-range throughout his Mego-meets-Microsound travelogue. The mutating array of miniscule clicks and rustles maintains interest (especially the carnivalesque episode that surfaces in the last half) but the piece lacks the drama and tension of Skagen's opener—until, that is, cacophonous noise erupts sixteen minutes in to collapse buildings for the piece's concluding three minutes. Sten Ove Toft's (the other half of Ryfylke) “Petit Mal” isn't an aural representation of an epileptic seizure as it's title suggests but is rather a twenty-minute Deathprod-like drone of billowing unfurl. Like Skagen's, Toft's piece heats up slowly but, after the halfway mark, spews forth lethal lava and shrapnel before just as suddenly cooling down to a placid whisper.

Jon Eriksen bookends Penumbra Booming with two combustible pieces of standard-issue noise (“Bolts Unfolding,” “Grand Collider”) but it's the central pieces that impress more. Toft returns, this time with an eighteen-minute machine drone titled “Sycamore Croquet Risky.” The piece builds to a broiling churn quickly and then slowly works its way up to a raging torrent at its close. Utarm incorporates orchestral strings and bells into the apocalyptic epic “Doomed From Lust For All That Was” which appeals on many levels, including being less predictable in its compositional path than some of the discs' other pieces. It ends quietly, as if the only hint of activity amidst the blasted remains of a destroyed city is the peaceful simmer that reigns in the aftermath of destruction.

January 2007