Boomkat Product Review:
Norwegian freeform pianist Anja Laudval tops off a banner year with her Laurel Halo-produced solo debut, a hazy sublimation of frothed new age, saturated fourth world, blissed dub and desiccated furniture music. RIYL Andrew Pekler, Klein, Carmen Villain, or Mica Levi.
Anja Laudval teams up with Laurel Halo to realise her debut solo set, a singular statement that pulls out Laudval's characteristic piano work and replants it in an unfamiliar setting. "From a Story Now Lost" isn't a solo piano album, but a rich and varied spread of air-cooled electro-acoustic experiments that speak directly to the Norwegian artist's wide-range of interests and musical obsessions.
Laudval has been releasing music since 2013 and has played in a variety of outfits - collaborating with Jenny Hval, Hamid Drake and William parker, among others. She brings a breadth of experience to "From a Story Now Lost", augmenting her instrumental performance with electronics and synth work. The Laurel Halo linkup came via Smalltown Supersound founder Joakim Haugland, and the two developed the album together, finding a groove as they worked into Laudval's looped improvisations. Laudval credits Halo as a "thought provoker", who pushed her to shape her music in a certain way, to constantly re-work and re-synthesise her experiments to reach a point where linearity slipped away completely
On 'The Dreamer', baroque strings flirt with cinematic grandiosity but are pitch-fucked by Laudval, tripping her initial concepts into fourth world psychedelia. Listen carefully and a beat tries to poke out above the soupy strings, gentle environmental recordings and cautiously tropical synthstrumentation; almost imperceptible, it sounds like an inverse throb, gently cutting into the music with a frequency rather than a pulse. 'Fantasie for Agathe Backer Grøndahl' introduces us to another of Laudval's influences, a 19th century Norwegian pianist and composer who's not as well known as her friend Edvard Grieg but nonetheless played a crucial role in shaping Norway's "golden age". It's best to listen to Laudval's music with this in mind, absorbing her daubed emotions, smudged into abstract shapes.
'Sukkertare' is a highlight, folding a billowing downtempo rhythm to Laudval's fluttered instrumentation and sea-legged electronix. The mood isn't a million miles from Special Guest DJ's influential "bblisss" comp, or Huerco S's Pendant material - drawn out and fragile, but undeniably sensual. 'Clara' takes a resplendent u-turn, knocking Laudval's pristine, measured piano against unfussy, gossamer electronics and subtle field recordings. It's a fascinating combination of influences that feels uncommonly coherent: emerging in a busy landscape of lackluster solo piano records and bargain bin landfill ambient, it's a focused, layered and distinct statement from an artist who sounds unafraid of questioning her academic training. Polished off with a mixdown from James Ginzburg and mastering by Rashad Becker, it's an album we're going to keep on revisiting.
What a run Smalltown Supersound are having eh?