Anja Lauvdal - From a Story Now Lost Music Album Reviews

Anja Lauvdal - From a Story Now Lost Music Album Reviews
On her solo debut, the Norwegian electronic musician uses synthesizer and piano to sketch suggestively abstracted scenes veiled in fog. The songs can feel like they’re transcribed from a forgotten language.

In the decade or so since she graduated from the Trondheim Conservatory of Music, Anja Lauvdal has built up a formidable discography: The Norwegian pianist and electronic musician has played in more than a dozen groups, backed Jenny Hval in the studio and on stage, and racked up a slate of duo and trio recordings that tug at the frayed edges of jazz. But to find her fingerprints on a record, you have to know where to look for her. Her keys are the connective tissue in the music of Skadedyr, a 12-person collective of jubilantly unbridled free improvisers; on Finity’s Jazz på engelsk: Finitys Destiny, she ducks beneath tuba and saxophone, blocking chords and smearing digital pads on a set of smoldering Destiny’s Child covers. In a trio formation like Moskus she’s easier to pick out, but her contributions—on synths, cembalo, vocoder, piano, and what’s credited simply as “samples”—are so mercurial that keeping up with her is like trying to get a bead on a fast-moving octopus. Even on a duo record like this year’s All My Clothes, with the drummer Joakim Heibø, her touch is slippery and sparing, as though determined to resist being pinned down from track to track—perhaps even from note to note.

From a Story Now Lost, Lauvdal’s solo debut, offers the chance to witness her musical ideas up close, but she remains a mysterious presence. Across 10 tracks totaling barely half an hour, she uses synthesizer and piano to sketch suggestively abstracted scenes veiled in fog. The title suits the music and the mood: These 10 instrumental pieces feel like songs transcribed from a forgotten language, or dreams whose unraveling only accelerates as you strain to piece them together.

It’s not a completely solo affair; American experimental musician Laurel Halo sits in the producer’s chair. The two artists worked in tandem on the album’s creation, with Lauvdal recording sketches and improvisations that Halo would then rework and send back for the Norwegian musician to iterate upon once more. With a CV that ranges from club tracks to filmic ambient to compositions for piano and electronics, Halo is just as versatile as Lauvdal, and her presence here is no easier to pinpoint. That could well be by design; this is, after all, Lauvdal’s show. But these pensive, unstable pieces feel in keeping with Halo’s own predilection for hazy shapes, particularly as evidenced on her 2020 Possessed soundtrack, or in her World Without Heroes, a set of fluid, meandering interpretations of Ursula K. Le Guin’s translation of the Tao Te Ching.

The album begins with a softly unfurling chord of unclear provenance; in the background, there’s a faint metallic clanking, like the lid rattling on a boiling pot. A subliminal hint of melody stirs just below the surface of long, languid synthesizer tones. Things rarely get much more definitive than this, and every time they do, entropy quickly reasserts itself. In “The Dreamer,” a boldly declarative theme suggests a half-remembered film score before plunging back into the murk, shrouded by birdsong, crickets, and what might be the clanking of cowbells in the pasture. Much of the album, in fact, feels like it takes place behind a scrim of white noise and August ambiance.

There’s a worn, crinkly feel to texture of the music, as if the tape had been pulled from its reels, wadded up, and left in a dank basement for a season or two before being smoothed out and fed back into the machine. Repetition is at the heart of many of these tracks—the skipping tones of “Fantasie for Agathe Backer Grøndahl” vaguely recall Oval or Jan Jelinek—even though Lauvdal’s loops tend to morph as they go, mutating with every jittery repeat. Even in the absence of obvious melodies, Lauvdal’s meditative, softly rounded tones have a way of working themselves into your mind. The smeared pipe organs of “Darkkantate” evoke dusty beams of light illuminating mossy pews in a ruined abbey. The ruminative piano of “Clara” recalls Grouper but without such an intense feeling of despondency—it’s less morose than simply lost in thought.

Ultimately, From a Story Now Lost’s emotions are as ambiguous as its amorphous shapes. In “Xerxesdrops,” which taps into a similar affective register as Harold Budd and the Cocteau Twins’ The Moon and the Melodies, a watery, wandering piano melody traces circles over sluggish, detuned synths; it might sound sad if you want it to, but in another mood, it could also pass as airy, hopeful, or simply distracted, mirroring the toe-scuffing shuffle of an absent mind. From a Story Now Lost offers a provocative update to Brian Eno’s hoary maxim about ambient music: Forget about the balance between ignorable and interesting—perhaps ambient also ought to be as stone-faced as it is steeped in feeling.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

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Anja Lauvdal - From a Story Now Lost Music Album Reviews Anja Lauvdal - From a Story Now Lost Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on November 08, 2022 Rating: 5


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