Muddersten - Playmates [Sofa Music - 2018]Muddersten are a Scandinavian trio who create shadowy- yet–darkly playful brand of improv, electro-acoustic texturing, and drone matter. The trio formed in 2015 and Playmates is their second release, after their 2017 debut Karpatklokke.
The project brings together Håvard Volden – guitar and tape-loops, Martin Taxt – microtonal tuba & electronics, and Henrik Olsson – objects, friction, and piezo. And as their set-up suggests they create quite a distinctive sound- which nicely blends together atmospheric tension, with a reserved, darker tinge, and at times a subtle surreal sonic playfulness.
The Playmates release appears as either a CD, Vinyl, or digital release- and I’m reviewing the CD version. This comes in the form of a digipak- it features collages of bodybuilders doing pull-ups, and abb stretchers- with-in the settings of a 1960’s showroom kitchen – all nicely enhancing the taut-yet-often unbalancing sonic works with-in.
The release takes in four tracks- Private Pleasure Parts 1-4, these run between four & sixteen minutes a piece- with a total album runtime of thirty-nine minutes. so( for the most part) the ideas/ themes never seem over milked or left to run dry.
The first track is nicely unsettling, building and fair short introduction to the album’s soundscapes- bringing together a sustained & drilling horn like drone, with a shifting map of scuttling ‘n’ scraping textures, compressed tuba pipelines, and subtle guitar pick bounces & purrs.
The second track begins with a pared-back mysterious map of knocks, sighs & pops-fairly soon a slowly tolling & angular guitar scuttle appears, along with sudden flurries of reduced honks & scrapes, and a building map of more rhythmic knocks, shuffles, and wags. The track nicely builds upon its mysterious begins, to create a detailed & at times surreal/ darkly comic sound world. In its last quarter the whole thing switches to a selection of strange twitters & instrumental drills, underfed by tiny elector knocks & bangs.
The third track opens with an eerier rustling, then a lonesome fading horn trail. Fairly soon we are drifting in a loose sinister soup of wailing church organ like drifts, creepy textural burrows, distant knocks & ticks, and drags- with later a wavering guitar atmospherics coming into play too. If one closes they're eyes it really feels like you are watching the unfolding of some dark & unhinged ceremony, in a dank & dusty subterranean cave.
The final track seems the least balanced & focused of the four tracks here- as it’s consists of flotsam & jetsam drift of wow-wow fueled guitar trails, flicking-yet- shapeless electro detail and unwell drone slides. It has its interesting moments, but ultimately I found it the least appealing & interesting tracks here.
I certainly think the set-up & the sound that Muddersten offer on most of Playmates is both worthy & interesting take of improv/ electro-acoustic texturing. I just felt the more seeming random & shapeless moments here let the side down slightly, and stopped it from being a complete success… anyway, I’ll certainly look forward to hearing future work from the trio.Roger Batty