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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bjarni Gunnarsson - "Safn"

Artist: Bjarni Gunnarsson
Album: Safn 2006-2009
Year: 2010
Label: Lamadameaveclechien
Genre: Experimental, Ambient, Glitch
Website: www.lamadameaveclechien.com

Got a few things from an Icelandic experimental ambient label, this is one. The album has "2006-2009" in the title so I assume it was composed during those years. One look at the cover and you can probably guess what type of stuff this is.
Good stuff:

+ atmosphere. One of the first things I noticed about this record was the atmosphere he is able to create. The more ambient parts of these tracks sound very much like soundtracks and could definitely fit into a film, in terms of both sound and sound quality. Very interesting, moving stuff; in fact, while listening you will inevitably start to form moving images in your head.
+ production. A lot of times when I get "experimental" stuff from bands I've never heard of, it turns out to be mixed and engineered terribly (or, more accurately, not at all!). Thankfully, that flaw is not present here. The production on this is very good, the sounds are very "big" and "full" sounding, and there is a lot of space in the mixes, which lets the beautiful, haunting ambience leak through the stranger, more chaotic rhythmic sounds. This space also allows the ambience to expand to its full grandiosity.
+ sounds. A couple things about the sounds; one is that the choice of sounds in general is good. The drones and ambient textures are very beautiful. There are some background sound effects which meld with said ambience to help weave visionary auditory tapestries. Then there are other, um, "experimental" sounds; I say that because it's stuff you hear more in glitch/idm...like Alva Noto or Pleq. Those sounds are cool too; they're not just, say, static-bursts, but instead are generally interesting, evolving tones and clicks. Sometimes they match up with the ambient backdrop and sometimes they are on their own, clicky and whooshing in a void. These sounds work at times, and at times they clash horribly with other pieces of the track, or seemingly go nowhere for too long.

Bad stuff:
- lack of direction. My biggest critique here is the occasional, seemingly lack of direction. The parts that have foundations of droning ambience are great, but there are large parts without a good base of ambience and instead consist of of quasi-random beeps and clicking. Kind of like Vromb, or Evan Bartholomew, or half the shit on Rastor Noton. In my opinion, these are often unnecessary and lack a projected path, which causes me to get bored and fast forward. Sometimes this will even happen in the middle of a track; for example, a song will have a nice section of atmosphere and emotion and then it all drops out and the void is filled with abrasive buzzing and sporadic whooshing sounds.


An interesting release which has its peaks and valleys. Fans of soundtrack-type ambient would enjoy parts this album, although I think the target audience is really moreso those who are into "experimental" ambient music, on labels like Rastor Noto would really be into this. If you're one of those people who, when given the choice to pick a cd out amongst a vast collection of Ant Zen stuff, picks Salt...this one is for you. I love droning dark ambient, and really enjoy sections of this album, but I feel it is often too "experimental" for me to get into.

Overall Rating:
n/a....don't feel comfortable rating this as this experimental stuff is not my forte at all.

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