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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Kristoffer Oustad - "Filth Haven"

Artist: Kristoffer Oustad
Album: Filth Haven
Year: 2015
Label: Malignant
Genre: Drone, Experimental
Website: www.malignantrecords.com

This is the first solo album from Kristoffer Oustad, known for his work in V:28 and the duo Kristoffer Nyströms Orkester which also releases on Malignant.

I enjoyed the previous KNO release The Overlook Hotel, and that was my only reference going in to Filth Haven. The opener “Elberton 1979” feels like a similar, but slightly more minimal version of something from that album. Slow, creeping drones pulsate while a creepy, fragmented voice speaks quietly. Over time the track builds and bring and brings in sweeping high-pitched noise drones and synth warbling. While not horrible, this is easily the least interesting track on the album and initially I was apprehensive about continuing on, however the rest of the album proves to be more powerful. The follow up track “Traveller” takes the ideas of the opener and expands on them. It retains the low, ultra deep drone but utilizes additional noises and sweeps to give it a harsher, though not abrasive, feel. In the middle it subsides into a very placid drone before slowly building up into a tranquil black abyss. “Anti-Clockwise” is a stranger piece. It sounds like he went in almost a Mille Plateaux direction, adding in steady, almost percussive, clicking and a plethora of haunting synth doodling. This album feels very much like it would be at home in an art installation, especially so with this piece. This track is super deep & evocative with its continual barrage of rising and falling ghostly drones, and it is one of my favorites here. “Row Me Over” is another good slow burn; it starts off quite sparsely, but continually builds as it takes you through some exceptionally deep chthonic corridors. Reminds me somewhat of Hall of Mirrors but with much cleaner production. “Liquidator” is a decent track, but has the same shortcomings as the opener – good sounds but doesn't really go anywhere. “The Sun Maker” conjures visions of ancient tribal civilization lost in the jungle (again the Hall of Mirrors reference is appropriate), despite a number of strange sounds that don’t particularly point me toward any one mental image. Some of the high pitched doodling is annoying, but it bothered me less than I thought. I guess the rest of the components make up for it. The closer “The Arch” has something of an industrial vibe and sounds like a huge engine churning underground. Reminds me of cyclic law’s Vortex. Again, good sounds are employed and it builds a convincing atmosphere, but it feels monotonous and doesn't seem to have a path to tread, instead circling the same place for its entire duration.

Definitely one of the darker records to come out on Malignant in recent years. This album thrives on the slow burn philosophy. When you first start out on a given song it may feel empty or boring, but after you stick with it for a while you find yourself getting sucked in - then once you get to the end you realize “hey, that was pretty solid I’m glad I stuck with it”. I also enjoy the variety; while all the tracks share similar overall feel and some characteristics, they each stand out from one another; that overly homogeneous sound is something that plagues a lot of minimal drone. Filth Haven is something to check out for people looking for somewhat minimal, exceptionally dark droning music in the vein of Vestigial, New Risen Throne, etc., with an experimental edge. If nothing else, “Anti-Clockwise” and “Row Me Over” are must hear tracks.

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