Arne Nordheim/Electric

nor-e.jpg Arne Nordheim:Electric
(Rune Grammofon - 1998)

The amazing sonic constructions which appear in Electric were composed by Norwegian Arne Nordheim. Impressive by any standard, these experimental tracks were literally sliced-and-diced 30 years ago resulting in unique collages of sound which retain their magic. These are wonderful arrangements of found sounds, instruments and primitive (though quite effective) filtering effects.

The technical aspects alone are staggering; the wildly manipulated atmospheres sound as if they were created with the most advanced computer sound editors... of course, they weren't, having been recorded in 1968 - 1970. The much-appreciated liner notes briefly detail some of the techniques employed by Nordheim, and it does not sound easy. But due to Nordheim's artistic persistence, the results are absolutely stunning.

solitaire lives up to its namesake in both the sparkling and the singular sense. Various crystalline effects achieve the former, and the piece's disjointed nature causes the latter, depositing the listener alone in some strange otherworld. Drones, echoes, mutated voices are all part of the track, but thousands of tinkling shards create an utterly icy, and often chaotic, environment.

pace (which means "peace") opens on an explosive cacophony of modified bell tones. Eventually, a calm is achieved through quieter, more spacious use of variously clamoring timbres. A man's, woman's and child's voices reading "The Declaration of Human Rights" are used as source material, but they have been utterly transmuted, though the words' meaning may be retained in spirit. Toward the piece's closing, pressures build once again, until... the end. Incidentally, at 9:32, this is the shortest track.

warszawa contains bits Nordheim collected on tape from around Warsaw as well as pieces from radio station archives, becoming a musical diary of sorts. From tumultuous to serene, grittily textured to smoothly planed, a most interesting collage unfolds. Haunting industrial soundscapes form a large part of the proceeding with wild mechanical drones, electronic buzzes, echoey drips and eerily quiet passages bathed in a gray, yet intriguing, light.

Composed of six tape loops of various length, polypoly is mind boggling on many levels... technically, to hear the piece return to its starting point would take 102 years. It played continually for six months in the Scandinavian Pavilion at 1970's World Exposition in Osaka. Comprised of sound samples and musical electronics, this is a 21-minute-plus segment of a self-regenerating landscape rolls past again and again in different dimensions each time. The sounds are relatively mundane clatter, music, sound effects or disembodied voices; some are fairly distorted, and others are just plain crazy! The loops are long and varied enough that, in this sample, you don't actually get any real effects of overt repetiveness; it remains quite unpredictable... perhaps after a few weeks one might catch on to the patterns.

colorazione is an exercise in which Nordheim interacts with a live ensemble, recording their input, filtering it and playing it back after a 15-second delay. The resulting interchange is again recorded, reworked and replayed. Fading in from silence, a dense build-up of Hammond organ and cymbals open . The resulting accumulation attains a grand state of cacophony. Passages of quiet musical interplay comingle with moments of tumultuous musical blasts.

Not only as a history lesson, but as a completely entrancing listen, Electric is mightily recommended. When paired with the Biosphere/ Deathprod remixes, Nordheim Transformed, the box set is an unparalleled mix of old and new. It's the AmbiEntrance #1 recording of the year! Now go to Rune Grammofon and get your own!
This review posted December 25, 1998

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