Erik Nyström - Morphogenèse [Empreintes DIGITALes - 2015]
Here’s an unusually packaged CD, wrapped in layers of entangled card inlays. Pulled apart, they reveal an outer card slipcase, an inner card inlay - both covered in texts and largely abstract imagery - and an odd little piece of card that holds the CD itself. The texts reveal recording details, as well as annotating the pieces themselves, of which there are five. The tracks, all recorded between 2008 and 2012, vary in length from around twelve minutes to over twenty. All five are rigorous, ‘hard-boiled’ electroacoustic works.
I’m not going to pretend to remotely encapsulate what goes in Morphogenèse; given the lengths of the individual pieces, and the sheer amount packed into them, I will instead offer up some highlights and more general thoughts. As I said above, the album compiles five serious electroacoustic works, constantly shifting and developing. The first track, Catabolisms, doesn’t start off too staggeringly; however, before long, it establishes a very nice drone. This disappears into a section that sounds simultaneously like a sci-fi spaceship, and something more organic - rocks and water. The sci-fi atmosphere is also found in the ominous drones that underpin some of the tracks, as well as the ‘digital’ feel that pervades most of the album. Later, near the close of the track, the sounds quickly combust/rot to a deathly hush - it’s a really nice transition between sections. Latitudes, the second piece, is perhaps best represented by the snaking, strained, whistling drone that dominates the early sections. The next track, Lucent Voids, begins with a soundscape that seems to summon water movements and bird-song, before adding bell-like sounds and hard, spacey tones. After the 16-minute mark, there’s a sudden, outbreak of near-melodicism, with a section that lurches like court music from some alien civilisation. In the context of the album as a whole, this is quite a startling moment for the ear, and all the better for it. The fourth piece, Cataract, is perhaps more low-key, less showy in tone than it’s previous counterparts, often burbling along quite quietly. Though there are still points of darkness and near-whiteout. Far-From-Equilibrium, the final piece (and oldest), might be my favourite track on Morphogenèse. It seems to carry a more visceral, even aggressive, selection of sounds than the other pieces. It also has sounds that are much less processed, even near-raw, and these add great colour in terms of texture and movement. There are some fantastic moments where Nyström pulls sounds inside out, tearing and straining them - it’s compelling and beautiful.
Like I said above, Morphogenèse is not a release suited to a short review - it’s arguably not really an album that I’m overly ‘qualified’ to give much insight to, given it’s clear academic designs. However, there is a wealth of material here to digest and peruse, all of which demands close listening. I’ll admit that the prevailing ‘digital’ feel to the sounds is not to my particular tastes, but Far-From-Equilibrium, where this effect is less pronounced, more than makes up for this. This was very enjoyable, and the kind of album that will always reward another listen.Martin P