Boomkat Product Review:
Touch are a label that always put quality control above all else. They don't release much, but you can guarantee that when they do release something it's of an almost untouchable standard, and their small but perfectly formed group of artists are a testament to that. They first welcomed Swedish experimental artist BJ Nilsen into the fold in the late 90s, when he was writing under the name Hazard, but since then Nilsen has developed and 'The Short Night', his latest full length record, is for me his most coherent and enjoyable album to date. Nilsen has been busy in the last few years, contributing to the incredible 'Storm' album with field recording veteran Chris Watson and also to 'Second Childhood' with cellist Hildur Gudnadóttir and Icelandic trio Stilluppsteypa but 'The Short Night' feels like the masterwork these records were building up to. Utilising his tuned ear for field recording, Nilsen blends environmental sounds collected in Sweden, Iceland and England and layers them above and beneath some quite stunning electronic parts. Taking vintage equipment (Sequential Circuits Pro-One, old Scandinavian generators, Korg MS20 etc) and recording and mixing using modern computer technology he comes up with a sound that owes as much to early innovators Popol Vuh and Delia Derbyshire as it does more recent ambient-darlings Biosphere and Deathprod. The mood is one of grim, crust-laden darkness, something akin to being trapped in an abandoned building as the Phantom of the Opera plays mercilessly in a sewer below - but while the mood is shadowy the sounds never become oppressive. Maybe it's due to the hypnotic nature of the compositions that draw you in and take hold of you entirely or possibly the actual character of the vintage generators used but the sounds float in and out of your consciousness with a wool-lined ease. Even as the album draws to a tremulous close with the incredible organ-drenched 'Viking North' and the amps reach eleven it is still washed with a veneer of melancholy and a palatable sheen that takes it above and beyond so many albums lumped into the same category. Touch have done it again then and thrown out yet another high water mark for the genre and a shining beacon in a mire of mediocrity. Huge recommendation.