October 16, 2007

Pärson Sound – Pärson Sound

Filed under: Hype,Music — rkodrzy @ 6:26 pm

[Subliminal Sounds; 2001]

In 2001, lost Swedish psychedelic recordings by a band by the name of Pärson Sound were found in a time capsule sent from the late sixties. Well not really. But this is a collection of tracks, both studio and live recordings, that had not been released by the band previously. In fact, this band hadn’t released anything at all under the moniker of Pärson Sound. After a short stint of live appearances amidst a burgeoning Swedish progressive and psychedelic music scene, they quickly changed their name to International Harvester and proceeded to release albums just like any normal band. But now we have a double album full of Pärson Sound, a much more intense and extreme affair than their later incarnations.

Though the entire album is full of highlights, the one that perhaps sticks out a bit further than the rest of the pack is “From Tunis To India In Fullmoon (On Testosterone).” This twenty minute monstrosity journeys out farther into the inner regions of the mind than perhaps any other piece of music I’ve heard. Driven by a simultaneously swirling and propulsive drumbeat, a dense sonic wall is erected and subtly manipulated through the use of ever-gradually changing textures. Repetition is the key here, as squawking horns and tortured guitars weave a patchwork quilt of patterns in and around the giant, crushing drone that both anchors the listener to the ground and molds his or her brain like putty. Often times traditional tempos are ignored, and the musicians adopt an almost free-jazz style of playing, resulting in many layers of loops revolving at different speeds. Yes, I’m still talking about the same track. This is a journey of the highest order, with each passing minute being different than the last, but still adhering to a definite and unbelievably solid theme.

As for a few of the other tracks, “A Glimpse Inside The Glyptotec-66” plays with droning tape loops and creepy voice editing, resulting in a disturbing little ambient track that adds some much needed restraint to this collection of songs while still keeping the same dark otherworldly mood that is present on the louder rockers. “One Quiet Afternoon (In The King’s Garden)” is exactly the opposite. What occurs here is simply a massive cloud of sound, noise, droning, whatever you want to call it. One could practically reach out into the air and touch such a dense collection of audio waves. The endlessly pummeling “Skrubba” is like a half-hour Scandinavian version of The Velvet Underground’s “Sister Ray,” only with no vocals, more cacophony, and more headache. The good kind of headache, of course. There is even a relatively straightforward folk song (by this band’s standards) in “On How To Live.”

Anyone who enjoys droning and heavy psychedelia shouldn’t hesitate to snag this lost gem. Just thinking about music like this existing in 1967/68 is mind blowing enough. Actually listening to it is another matter entirely.

October 5, 2007

Supersilent – 8

Filed under: Music — Cy @ 3:19 am

[Rune Grammofon; 2007]

Supersilent has come a long way from their frenetic free-jazz roots of 1-3. They’ve dabbled in almost every experimental genre you could name – minimalistic, ambient, post-rock, and free improvisation. In “8”, they throw all these disparate genres into a melting pot, but the results aren’t nearly as sublime or poignant as those on “6”, their most well-loved album. “8” runs like several truly beautiful moments, none of which encompasses an entire song, strung together by almost forgettable filler. The ideas are well and good, reminiscent of the aimless and spectral qualities of “6” with a darker and more drum-heavy sound, but the execution is rather lazy, something that I am unaccustomed to hearing from this band. The production and atmosphere of the album are quite fitting, but the actual substance is lacking compared to the band’s earlier efforts. Perhaps the overindulgence in percussion is what mainly ruins the album, as the drums and cymbals are often used capriciously (not in itself a bad thing) but sometimes without much thematic unity or apparent pattern.

The album starts out with the miasmic “8.1”, which is one of the better songs here. A mixture of the relentless plodding of Sunn O))) and the swirling ambience of Gas and Boards of Canada, the song does a fine job of setting a hazy and meandering mood. “8.2” is basically a bunch of drum and cymbal hits threaded together with rushes of aquatic blips. There’s hardly anything to the song until the last minute or so, when about five different sonic directions converge into one chaotic whole and then die and fade away into nothing.

The minimalistic “8.4”, probably the best song on the album, ironically has actual melodies and is rather pretty in an understated, subtle way. Calmly shifting electronics and horns explore laid-back sonic territories, appealing to both lovers of delicate textures and eerily gorgeous melodies. Sometimes the best songs are soft and simple, and this one is a fine example.

The initial components of “8.5” are: repeated drum cluster, drunken robot nonsensical ranting, background heavenly choir, and other small ornamental noises. Later, the song transitions into the quintessential Supersilent spacey swirling of guitar and unconventional rock instruments (in this case flute). Many of the aforementioned “truly beautiful moments” can be attributed to sections with the flutes and the latter part of this song in general; if not for the annoying start with spliced vocals this would be among Supersilent’s very best songs. As it is, it’s up there with 8.4 as the best material on this album. “8.6” starts out promising, with a somewhat interesting idea of spontaneous electronic bloops complemented by the ever-present sparse percussion, but the idea never gains any momentum or goes anywhere at all. They at last return to their freakout roots with “8.7”, a blizzard of electric trumpet and guitar noise thrown atop a tight and compact rhythm section. While the song is fluid throughout, for some reason or another it just doesn’t grab me like most chaotic free improvisation. A few of the remaining “beautiful moments” happen here, but not too many. The album finally peters out with, you guessed it, “8.8” which is similar to (but not as good as) “6.1”; it really just doesn’t have much interesting going on, apart from some melancholic wave-like sections which, if explored more thoroughly, might have salvaged the song.

Alas, the band just shies away from going beyond the cusp of good ideas and in general stinks of production without true substance. Perhaps I sound overly harsh here – there are plenty of great spots, and the album is pleasant enough really – but I was pretty disappointed by this one, as it was one of my most anticipated releases of the year. Let’s hope 9, 10 and all subsequent integers are more engaging and wholesome.

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