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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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David Maranha, "Noe's Lullaby"
David Marhana, known for his work with his brother Andre as the duo Osso Exotico, here presents a new composition that seems equally as informed by Swans and Godspeed You Black Emporer! as by minimalist classical music. Throughout the "Lullaby"s hour (nearly) of music, several patterns cycle over and around each other. The content of each is taken from (melo?)dramatic rock music; a steady bass drum kick, three succinct high-hat hits, a peel of guitar feedback. There's no mistaking the oppressive death-rock gloom that hangs over the work, with rhythmic bass thud anchoring it to an unchanging pace. Images of guitar distortion pedals (most notably a DOD pedal, conspicuously marked "Heavy Metal"), 1/4" guitar cables and a snare drum serve to hammer home the RAWK connotations. Yet, despite the many references to what might be percieved as an energetic or cathartic genre, the music does not evolve or build to any climactic noise; rather, all of the elements present at its beginning of the CD make appearances several times, and then "Noe's Lullaby" simply ends. The composer includes the phrase "to play LOUD" (caps are his) in the sleeve text, but the music isn't loud-sounding at all. So volume doesn't seem to affect the music very much (I resent a composer telling me how to listen to his or her music, anyway). Neither is it particularly narcotic, as its title implies. I tried going to sleep to it, but the threat of a big loud climax, while never actually arriving, seemed possible at every moment.


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