Runhild Gammelsæter/Lasse Marhaug - Context & Higgs Boson Music Album Reviews

Runhild Gammelsæter/Lasse Marhaug - Context & Higgs Boson Music Album Reviews

Runhild Gammelsæter/Lasse Marhaug - Context & Higgs Boson Music Album Reviews
The prolific Norwegian producer and electronic musician explores space and silence on a pair of powerful, absorbing records—one solo, the other with experimental metal vocalist Runhild Gammelsæter.

Lasse Marhaug plays enthusiastically with others. During the last three decades, the Norwegian noise musician, avant-pop producer, and provocative graphic designer has worked on around 1,000 albums. Admittedly, many of these records were relatively low-stakes affairs, straight-to-tape live sets that he mastered or one-off rendezvous eked out in tiny editions. But Marhaug is also a repeat collaborator with Jenny Hval, having co-produced Blood Bitch and Apocalypse, girl, and the creative foil for Kelly Lee Owens’ LP.8. His erstwhile group Jazzkamer made some of the century’s most indispensable metal investigations, too, pushing minimalism to maximum intensity. Despite that torrent of material, Marhaug rarely issues proper solo albums—just one, 2010’s punishing exploration All Music at Once, during the last dozen years. He thrives, it seems, on an exchange of ideas, the heat of feedback.

But two fascinating new albums—the scrupulous and disorienting solo work Context and an absorbing duo record with ultra-dynamic metal vocalist Runhild Gammelsæter, Higgs Boson—offer fresh insight into the mind of one of experimental music’s most active forces, capturing a compelling mix of intimacy and power. These are wildly different records. Marhaug is locked in a kind of cosmic tug-of-war with Gammelsæter, his rapturous electronics pulling her toward earth as she explores particle physics and the unknown with a voice that exhilarates even as it unsettles. By comparison, Context is quiet and staid, even when it hisses, churns, or jolts; it is a careful soliloquy concerning the nature of sound from someone best known for just letting it rip. Together, they are galvanizing reminders of how space and silence can be as compelling as what eventually rushes in to overtake them.

For the last quarter century, Gammelsæter has often been unfairly reduced to a curious footnote in the history of American doom, even becoming a Jeopardy! clue. As a teenage exchange student in Washington state, she formed the short-lived and great Thorr’s Hammer with Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson years before they became Sunn O))); her depths-of-hell voice made their EP, Dommedagsnatt, feel like an abyss was opening at your feet. (Seriously, if you’ve never heard it, do it.) It became a much-reissued cult favorite; the fact that Gammelsæter went on to study at Harvard, earn a doctorate in biology, and direct a string of Scandinavian biotech companies only abetted later intrigue.

Higgs Boson isn’t Gammelsæter’s first album since those Evergreen days of yore. It is, however, her most focused and riveting. Though Gammelsæter is famous for a stentorian bellow, she can also summon a whisper-soft coo, a theatrical sibilance, and even a sing-song ease. She brings all these facets to bear at once here, putting them in play with one another and Marhaug’s contortions.

Listening to opener “The Stark Effect” feels like furtively navigating a musical hall of mirrors, as Gammelsæter’s many vocal guises—the devil here, an angel there—emerge from corners you cannot see, then slink behind them. It is mesmerizing and terrifying in equal measure. So is “Hadron Collider,” where Gammelsæter speaks in a scientist’s steely voice about energy until she slips into a droning wail, as if tormented by the findings of her inquiries. “Propeller Arc” is a wondrous bit of trunk-rattling bass music for the apocalypse. She barks like a military commander in the foreground, while her voice drifts with seraphic wonder in the rear. This versatility and control put Gammelsæter in league with the likes of Meredith Monk or Diamanda Galás, pioneering singers capable of communicating more with tone than words themselves.

The key to making all these aspects of Gammelsæter’s voice work so well together is Marhaug’s facility for layering. During “Ondes Da Fase,” Gammelsæter’s sound is a composite of low drones and hissing highs, blended but discrete like the strata of sandstone. It stretches across the entire track. But phosphorescent hums and a faint beat echoing in the distance add dimension; I find myself focusing on these other elements, playing a game where I’m peering around Gammelsæter’s voice like a curtain. In “Static Case,” her interlocked whispers, roars, and incantations pirouette across squelching circuits and glowing noise. The song moves like a slow wave, resting long enough at its nodes that you sit in suspense, wondering what will come next. That’s a fitting sensation for a record that asks questions about the framework of our universe—and admits the answers might make for existential terror.

The underpinnings of this success become clear on Context, Marhaug’s set of seven spare but captivating instrumental pieces. Recorded in the Oslo studio he used for most of his career before leaving the city for Norway’s far Arctic reaches, Context was meticulously edited from hours of improvisations. Listening to it after Higgs Boson is like marveling at some gothic mansion, then somehow seeing the ornate framing behind its walls. Bursts of harsh noise, slivers of angular static, rumbles of punishing bass: Though the sounds here are every bit as intense as Marhaug’s past might lead us to expect, his patience and appreciation of space mean the results are newly delicate, the fragile skeleton of a once-formidable beast.

The marvel of the set is “Context3.” From start to finish, a massive bass thud repeatedly decays in a sequence of seven smaller hits; curdled electronics, tea-kettle whistles, and serrated drones all curl around the beat, like invasive vines crawling up that mansion’s aging foundation. The sounds clash as they compete for room, while the oblivious rhythm pounds on. They wear one another out and fade away in an epic drama condensed into six minutes. Where “Context4” feels like a scene of endless winter, “Context5” conjures the pervasive fatigue of a city soundscape and subsequent retreat. These pieces work so well because of the care Marhaug took in positioning each part, in letting tiny gestures—a subtle boost in volume, a tiny tone slipping through silence—shape a larger narrative.

With an artist as busy as Marhaug, it is tempting to see his work as scattershot or offhand, ideas executed in unapologetic sprints. In the past, it could certainly feel that way—All Music at Once, after all, felt like an expulsion of ideas, fast and ferocious. Hearing Marhaug’s evolution through this pair of entrancing records is inspiring, a parable of blunt tools being slowly sharpened into surgical instruments. Both alone and with others, Marhaug is no longer just a Norwegian noise musician shocking through sprees of abrasive sound; he is a painstaking producer, using space, time, and silence to give such abrasive sounds more power. In doing so, he’s rightfully helped restore Runhild Gammelsæter to much more than curiosity status and established a promising new platform for his own considered ideas.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Runhild Gammelsæter/Lasse Marhaug - Context & Higgs Boson Music Album Reviews Runhild Gammelsæter/Lasse Marhaug - Context & Higgs Boson Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on September 07, 2022 Rating: 5


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