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Jeremiah Chiu / Marta Sofia Honer - Recordings From the Åland Islands Music Album Reviews

Jeremiah Chiu / Marta Sofia Honer - Recordings From the Åland Islands Music Album Reviews
With trickles of piano, synth, and viola, the Los Angeles-based collaborators shape a tranquil vision of a Nordic landscape that feels just beyond the edge of reality.

Jeremiah Chiu and Marta Sofia Honer originally traveled to the Åland Islands, an archipelago in the Baltic Sea that looks like paint splatter on a map, to help two friends set up a small hotel. Once there, they were so entranced by the islands’ dreamlike atmosphere that they decided to settle in and capture their impressions. The music Chiu and Honer made on Recordings From the Åland Islands recalls Terrence Malick shots—endless golden-hour sunsets, slow-motion leaves rippling in the breeze, the whole bit. I have never been to the Åland Islands, but the place that Chiu and Honer depict on record is impossibly beautiful, the kind of fragile paradise that might be better left unspoiled by human observation.

Chiu and Honer met in the Chicago improvisational scene, and they’ve been playing together for so long that their disparate instruments—Chiu works mostly with modular synthesizers, while Honer plays viola—blur together. Honer’s long bow strokes and wide vibrato smooth her viola down to the same sleepy frequency as Chiu’s synthesizers, and field recordings (chirping birds, snatches of human voice, a few muffled clanks) add to the sense of unreality. Every sound feels either softened or melted; even the hand percussion has liquid edges.

Chiu is also a visual artist, and these pieces explore texture more than movement. Chiu thickens the mix with reverberant keys, then Honer thins it with her viola, like water drizzling onto canvas. You’re never quite sure if what you’re hearing is played “live” or manipulated, and sounds keep darting over the porous border. I can’t say for sure what is happening on “Stureby House Piano,” but whatever it is, it transforms an audibly creaking out-of-tune grand piano into a skyward flock of piano-key-colored birds.

Recordings From the Åland Islands is so tranquil and beautiful that you might easily imagine it playing in the background of a prerecorded relaxation meditation. But a surprising amount happens in these pieces, and once you pay attention, you start chasing sounds: a distant clang on “By Foot, by Sea,” like a flagpole pinging in wind; the full-body shudder of distortion that passes through “Anna’s Organ.” There is a depth of field to their work, a sense of smaller sounds scurrying beneath bigger ones, that distinguishes it from the sort of kitsch you might hear piping from the corner speaker at a high-end spa.

Their process recalls the “rainforest electro” movement in Latin America, where musicians and artists are recording and reworking the sounds of the Earth as a means of reconnecting with it. In Chiu and Honer’s music, the natural world is half human conception, half unknowable Other: Spend enough time in it, and you will sense that intelligence, fleet and mysterious, moving just beneath the surface. Something is alive in their work, and it feels like it’s always rounding the next corner, just out of your reach.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

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Jeremiah Chiu / Marta Sofia Honer - Recordings From the Åland Islands Music Album Reviews Jeremiah Chiu / Marta Sofia Honer - Recordings From the Åland Islands Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Friday, April 01, 2022 Rating: 5

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