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Alog, "Amateur"

cover image Espen Sommer Eide and Dag-Are Haugan return as Alog for yet another fantastic album. They further refine their symbiosis of natural and electronic sounds, always sounding at once earthy and cosmic. Never utilizing weird sounds just for the sake of it, the dozen tracks on this CD are all pieces of music that sound more than beautiful. As expected from Alog, this is a remarkable album that reveals more and more with each listen.

 

Rune Grammofon

What I enjoy most about Amateur (and this applies to pretty much all the other albums put out by Rune Grammofon) is the attention to detail in terms of sounds and sound treatments. Eide and Haugan are not afraid to leave a sound as it is if it has the right character or to tweak it if it needs a little help fitting in with the rest of the sounds. Although I must admit, sometimes it is hard to tell what has been treated in the studio and what is a "real life" sound as there are so many unusual instruments used on and built for the album. Not only that but Alog approach voices from an interesting perspective, the vocal layering of "Write Your Thoughts in Water" sound like a living church organ (and from what I can tell, there no little digital trickery going on here).

Amateur has a dreamy, meandering feel to it. Many of the pieces (especially the aptly named "The Learning Curve") begin with random sounding noises, like the recording has started while the two musicians are trying to figure out what instruments they are playing. However, as if by magic, it all comes together to form a delicate and captivating whole. A good example of this is "The Future of Norwegian Wood," which for the first half of the piece is a cut up of the sound of nails been hammered into wood which makes for interesting listening on its own. When the treated piano comes in over this unusual percussion, the effect is startling and gorgeous.

Most of the album is fairly laid back but Eide and Haugan can bring the music to the boil when they want to, the powerful staccato of "The Beginner" and the middle part of the lengthy "Bedlam Emblem." While Amateur is far from a boring album, it would have been nice to have one or two more livelier pieces on it but that might be entering the realms of greed. As it stands it is a cracker of an album, a logical and fitting continuation of Alog's journey through sound.

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Ted Leo

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Review of the Day

Greg Davis, "Curling Pond Woods"
Carpark
There's a level of innocence and melodic clarity present on this disc that makes me wonder why it hasn't received more recognition. Then the determining factor hits me: this is too sweet, almost comical in its lazy strolling. Greg Davis obviously has an ear for gorgeous sounds an the ability to craft elegant stretches of sound, but unfortuneately it seems as if he doesn't have the ability to create a coherent record. All the instrumentation is from traditional (i.e., non-electronic) sources and then warped and rearranged in various manners by way of laptop. The heart of each instrument is present in the mix so each instrument is readily identifiable; the sound of rain, birds singing, and other environmental sounds make their way behind the instruments and then... nothing. Almost all of these songs have absolutely no progression and if they do, it takes six minutes or so for any movement to happen. "Improved Dreaming" begins with the charming sounds of a toy music box chirping away above the sounds of a cartoonish galaxy full of twinkling stars and wisps of astral dust and then flows into the sound of woodwinds sighing out an exquisite melody... over and over and over again. The whole thing runs six minutes plus but it could've had a more stunning effect at perhaps half that length. One track wouldn't normally bug me so much, but there's so much excellent happening that it angers me at how dull it becomes because of repetition. And the problem is infectious. I could do without the singing, too. While the album might intentionally have a whimsical feeling, the vocals don't add to that, they simply sound cheesey and a bit out of place. Curling Pnd Woods has a lot of excellent spots, but those excellent spots wear off quickly. I recommend it in small doses; two tracks at a time is more than enough too keep the sweetness level low and the monotony at a minimum. These tracks could've captivated me had they been released as a series of EPs or singles.

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