Boomkat Product Review:
Finnish-Swedish electro-acoustic composer Marja Ahti takes a microscope to her environment on 'Tender Membranes', her Black Truffle debut, bringing out detail from field recordings, household sounds and surreptitious instrumentation and matching it with intimate electronics. RIYL crys cole, Francisco Lopez, Kassel Jaeger or Felicity Mangan.
There's a meditative quality to 'Tender Membranes' that's felt immediately with a sustained bell tone that's allowed to ring into near silence. Ahti sets the scene with zeal, meeting the tone with glassy wails that cut dramatically into rushing water sounds, distant airplanes, radio static and whirring electronics. She slowly ushers us into her world, using concréte techniques to distort and abstract her sound sources, twinning a fly's buzz with grotty machine sounds and fizzy, synthesized pops on 'Shrine (Aether)', before dousing us in salt water. She never stays in one place for too long, but allows the sounds to establish themselves before they're inevitably teased into the surreal. Indistinguishable close-miked clatter becomes rattly percussion, and cricket sounds dance with similarly tuned synthesizer hums - it's quite a dazzling display.
'Dust / Light' opens with high pitch squealing that persists throughout the majority of the composition, warring with resonant, metallic tones, strangled horn blasts and low-end throbs. Gusty field recordings blow some of the dust away for a moment and there's a voice singing in the distance, before the high pitched squeal threatens to scrape the wax from your inner ear. It might not be power electronics, but Ahti's sound is piercing enough to give most listeners a jolt.
'In all this, there is a melody...' is a return to relative calm, a lengthy piece that sounds subterranean, with woozy gong tones, tape-mangled scratches and passages of near-choral, celestial beauty. We're played out with 'Oh Fragrant Witness', the album's most serene composition, building from sustained, hypnotic drones into terrifying, windy ambience that comes to a close with bell sounds, closing the loop perfectly.
Remarkable stuff - if you're into contemporary electro-acoustic music, consider it required listening.