Abhorrent Beauty & Jan-M Iversen - Momentum [Dead Sea Liner - 2010]Norweigen isolationist soundshapers Abhorrent Beauty and Jan-M Iversen have joined forces for an album of grey, detached drifts of hibernation, nondescriptly entitled "Momentum". It comes in a handmade teal cardboard sleeve with a Rorschach inkblot in deeper blue and white painted on. This color scheme matches the frigid and unforgiving arctic sound of the music. There's not much in the way of feelings or emotions in this murky, barely conscious music, but some great sounds and spaces.
First of the four pieces on the album is the 16 minute "Inherently", somewhat of a misleading opener for its breathless quietude and emphasis on bass frequencies. Sparse rumblings and thick, deep tones occur in the distance in a vague illusion of regularity, but the foreground is empty, dusty stillness. With any background noise in the listening environment, the track only occasionally murmurs into audibility, much like the work of Ulv. It's similar to the sort of imitations of the subterranean natural environment created by many ambient musicians, but there are synthetic touches that hint at the digital nature of the sound sources, and with them comes an ominous tinge.
The remaining music on the album is much louder and has a smoother, more consistent density and movement, though the sound palette of whooshing monochromatic reverb tales changes little. These songs remind me of watching faint underwater scenery steadily pass by the porthole of a ship from the inside.
Interestingly, my first thought when the unbroken flow of "Momentum Pt. 1" kicks in is that I miss the peaceful minimalism of the first track. This track has clearer use of synthesizers in the deep, droning chord that forms the backdrop of the piece. Occasionally higher harmonics filter through, and rushing gusts of ambience swell in and out over a flotsam of muffled and abruptly panned contact sounds which seem to move at a much more restless pace than the sounds beneath. There's really almost too much going on; any of these sounds by themselves could have made more of a statement.
The album becomes more tonal as it goes on. "Momentum Pt. 2", the shortest piece on the album, takes the positive qualities of the first part and shapes them into a more focused track. A gently pulsing, pure metallic drone like endlessly sustained wind chiming accompanies rushing gusts as found in the previous piece, this time with patient pacing. This track is a glimmering and soporific arctic dream.
The final track "Stalking" is really the meat of the album at 25 minutes. It's the simplest, yet possibly most compelling of the songs, a hazy drone like a persisting light or signal mostly obscured by a blizzard. As we finally near the end of the running time, the tone has come much nearer to the listener and it's as if we're able to hear the mechanical inner workings of the machine responsible for it, a cloud of hinted rhythmic whirrings, hums and groans. Food for the imagination.
In conclusion this is some great somnient arctic ambience for the connoisseur. Not every moment of the album is perfectly engaging, as it sometimes loses itself in its dimness, but I have no doubt Abhorrent Beauty and Jan-M Iverson created the environment and atmosphere they set out to create. There's enough diversity and creativity to keep me listening for the duration. Recommended to fans of the dark ambient genre. Josh Landry