Somnambule - Writing About Music

B.J. Nilsen ~ Fade To White

A sound like distant transport containers pounded by rubber mallets is succeeded by a single, wavering note that's increasingly underscored by dense, ululating undertones. The effect is tensely magisterial as if a king were standing on a cliff as it disintegrates into a stormy sea far below. The structural simplicity of this 10 minute piece, Purple Phase, combined with its textural detail and keening pitch makes for an impressive experience comparable to surveying a dramatic coastal landscape at length. Fade to White is Benny Jonas Nilsen’s first release since last year’s rather lovely Live At Konzerthaus Wien, issued by Touch on cdr. It continues a fascination for environmental soundscapes but, unlike its predecessor, breaks proceedings into six tracks that range in duration between five and fifteen minutes. Each piece was recorded in open spaces around central Europe before being digitally remixed and arranged.

Dead Reckoning is denser and muddier than Purple Phase. It scuffles and scrapes at the eardrums as if trying to scour away an accumulated residue that might otherwise prevent its assimilation. Beneath the chilly vapours and surface scree of Let Me Know When It’s Over a tumbling piano motif can be spied, while parts of Grappa Polar are comprised of legions of patient trumpets. At least this is the impression intermittently conjured by Nilsen’s sonic sculpting, but like shapes seen in clouds, the trumpets and piano are an association of the mind that it’s difficult to verify the reality of. These soundscapes mirror the strange intersections of natural and manmade worlds in lengthy brooding passages that accrete into moments of elegiac grandeur.
Colin Buttimer
January 2005
Published by The Wire