Ravha\Electricity Gardens Reviews
A split disc, with one long track by the Swedish trio Moljebka Pvlse, five by the Israeli duo, Seventeen Migs of Spring and one shared.
Moljebka Pvlse is Karin Jacobsen (bells, thunder tubes, walking on leaves, Styrofoam), Mathias Josefson (field recordings, electronics, mix) and Martin Nordin (violin) and their pieces here are fascinating. This whole general area of processed field recordings has become fairly crowded in the last couple of years and even solid works can get lost in the shuffle so hearing something like the opening 27-minute piece, “Ravha”, is a real joy. The “walking on leaves” accreditation above might seem a tad precious but those sounds are major ingredients here, along with transportation hub hubbub (including the recordist explaining himself to a passerby), abstract industrialiana and a huge sense of space. The violin comes lurching, sawing into the scene, eventually carving out a plaintive line amidst the bang of metallic sheets, soft bells and a distant argument. It ends with some whistles and quietly clattered metal; wonderful piece. The collaborative track is a fine, understated rumble, well-molded.
The four participants in Seventeen Migs of Spring gather under the noms K-76, Gurfa, B-74 and Discord, wielding, one presumes, an array of electronics. It sounds as though field recordings are also present, though they’re worked into drones and kneaded into the largely dark, brooding ambience on the first cut featuring only this quartet. Others, like “Alternative Current”, evoke mid 60s tape pioneers like Raaijmakers and Koenig (I’ve encountered a good deal of this sort of sound lately, a reinvestigation of that decade’s electronic avant-garde), complete with blooping swirls, low burbling growls and quasi-metallic clangs, though rather more aggressively than their forebears and lacking much poetry of those earlier works. The pieces are effective enough at what they shoot for, it’s just that I find their somewhat claustrophobic character of less intrinsic interest than the spaciousness created by Moljebka Pvlse. Mileage may vary for different listeners, though; the Migs do what they do well.
Well worth hearing, especially for that fine, fine “Ravha”.
It’s amazing how much we as humans take for granted the full spectrum of our sensory cues (especially sight followed by hearing) in order to enable us to navigate and make sense of the world around us– so imagine the sense of displacement and separation should any of us lose the use of our eyes, the prime sensory organ. While we can do without touch, smell and taste (and hearing to a degree) and not suffer too much, it’s that convergence between sight and sound especially that helps us to locate ourselves within a spacial framework. Take away the visual cues and suddenly the world becomes a strange place; it may as well be another planet entirely.
The preceding long-winded preamble does have a point; Moljebka Pvlse’s drone and field recording pieces are a good illustration of how the world becomes that strange place without the benefit of sight. ‘Rahva’, the twenty-six minute opening track, is indeed another planet, where even the sound of a lone mournful trumpet takes on a disturbingly unfamiliar colour and shade. The same goes for the dog barking in ‘Calm Gardens (at night)’, the track created by MP along with K-76, Gurfa and B-74 of SMoS; the apparently dichotomous simultaneity of the familiar and yet unfamiliar. By isolating commonplace sounds like voices and everyday life and weaving them around subtle drones and tones the pieces detach themselves from what we take for granted and are removed from their proper places. We are encouraged to reassess our relationship with both the mundane sounds and noises that are a part of our everyday experience. This seems to be MP’s particular forte, the ability to shift sound sideways and make it seem as if we are experiencing them for the first time.
The five pieces that comprise Seventeen Migs of Spring’s evocatively titled suite ‘Electricity Gardens’ are aptly named; serried ranks of pylons marching across miles and miles of fields or the buzzing flowers of conductors and transformers in the walled beds of the ubiquitous substations. Metallic boings, clangs, buzzes and hums crackle with a barely contained energy that just wants to break out; despite the uninspiring and unpromising track titles the pieces surprise with an animation and power entirely in keeping with the subject matter.
Again, we can hark back to the point I made about Moljebka Pvlse’s pieces: the point about taking things for granted. Electricity is such a major part of our everyday lives that we almost cease to function as a civilisation when it suddenly stops flowing. In the same way that we take our eyes for granted we also do the same with that light-switch, never once stopping to think how we would cope without either of these essential elements. I may be miles off in my interpretation; however given the current concerns with energy generation and its future then I think it’s entirely natural to entertain this train of thought.
A quietly thought-provoking CD, created by very different sound-artists who nevertheless know how to shepherd their materials to conjure up the right atmosphere and images in order to set off thought-patterns that help instigate re-evaluation and reassessment. This one’s definitely a keeper…
This split release between Sweden’s Moljebka Pvlse and Israel’s Seventeen Migs of spring seems to revolve around the concept that electricity is an enveloping part of our environment, in all but the most remote regions of our planet. The artists choose one unifying factor to make their point, which is field recordings, but overall the two use divergent means of expression.
Moljebka Pvlse, in this case are represented by a three piece band. Apart from mainstay Mathias Jacobson, Maria Nordin appears on violin. Karin Jacobson is credited with bells, thunder tube and walking in leaves on styrofoam. Their album-side length opener, Ravha, is without question the standout track here. Everything which follows appears relatively insignificant in comparison, not that the rest of the album is at all bad. The track at its inception is made up of all found sounds, collaged in such a way to make music of everyday sounds, whether it be public address systems or abstract electrical current hum.
What is especially intriguing is the fact that, though they are assembled for forward motion, the sounds don’t sound fussed with or overly modified in the studio. The act of using environmental sounds in the Cage-ian spirit that music is natural and needn’t be created by traditional instruments is certainly nothing new. But Moljebka Pvlse appoint these sounds with a refreshing lack of adornment, and a willingness to let the elements speak for themselves. They don’t make an attempt to shape them for their own means. And that’s just the first half of the piece. One would think that the addition of musical elements would be at odds with the tone of Ravha, but it works surprisingly well. The violin, in particular, melds nicely with the background sounds.
So, yes, the rest of the album pales in comparison to this towering achievement. Seventeen Migs of Spring offer five tracks here, and they seem more interested in the bluster of electricity. They attack these pieces, credited as Electricity Gardens, with fuzzy noise, and a more abstract focus. Their music is bold and arresting in the beginning, but after a few minutes, becomes a bit tiresome. This album is worth owning in the very least for its exceptional first half. Any joy that can be gleaned from the second half is merely a bonus.