Boomkat Product Review:
Veteran sonic alchemist BJ Nilsen returns with a Sartre-influenced hall of mirrors, using recognizable elements (voices, trains, bells, birds etc) to create fantasy "irreal" soundscapes struck thru with beauty, intrigue and mischief. Chris Watson and Lawrence English devotees take note!
Swedish sound artist Nilsen has spent almost two decades impressing us with his skillful blend of environmental recordings and deep drone. His '06 collaboration with Chris Watson, "Storm", is a classic, and his records with Icelandic duo Stilluppsteypa remain some of the experimental canon's most slept-on tomes. "Irreal" is Nilsen's most impressive solo work in a while, combining his philosophy of sound with evocative field recordings and engrossing deep listening experimentation.
Using recordings from Austria, Russia, South Korea, Belgium and The Netherlands, Nilsen creates fresh, unique landscapes that exist in neither one place nor another. Insects and birds hum in the distance, snow crunches, grass blows in the wind, but this isn't documentary, it's pure fantasy. The environmental sounds form a textural landscape for Nilsen's careful synth work, and drones and wobbling rhythmic sequences ping in-and-out of the more recognizable sounds.
This is meditative music, created with a distinctly philosophical concept in mind. The title is taken from a Sartre quote, and the music is intended to investigate the effect natural sounds have on humans. On the epic almost 40-minute closing track 'Beyond Pebbles, Rubble and Dust', Nilsen's ideas come together with the force of an orchestra. In less capable hands, this would fall into "power ambient" traps, but Nilsen only teeters on the edge of the extreme, never allowing his slow-building composition to overwhelm the cautious, complex palette. It's a masterclass, honestly.