Album: LIBRARY TAPES – Höstluft (Make Mine Music MMM033 2007)

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Library Tapes is the project of Swedish pianist David Wenngren. Höstluft is the third album in less than two years, and the first for Make Mine Music. Alone In The Bright Lights Of A Shattered Life and Feelings For Something Lost both appeared on Resonant, and were both as melancholy as their titles suggest. They were also very short albums with a combined running time of only about an hour. Höstluft is also a brief work with eleven tracks packed into little over thirty minutes.

There is a deliberate uniformity in the construction of the music on this album. Each track sees a fairly simple piano melody juxtaposed with field recordings of tape hiss, electricity hum, metallic clanking and distortion – mainly microsounds heavily amplified. The effect is to make the piano pieces seem aged, cracked and worn. The extraneous noise somehow enhances the music. Some of the pieces are quite jaunty, but the aural vandalism changes the mood completely, and the more reflective tracks are made even more sombre. The final cut, “Distans”, is almost overwhelmed by what sounds like the metallic squeal of the brakes on a locomotive, and yet the noise somehow doesn’t distract from the melody but focusses the attention on it.

Unlike the prepared piano pieces recorded by Hauschka, the actual music is spare, unadorned and natural sounding. The tape noise gives it its unworldly, ghostly feel. The comparison that most springs to mind is “Providence” on Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation which has a similar construction and mood. Höstluft feels more like a single piece in eleven parts than a collection of tracks. No individual cut stands out, but the whole has a wonderful air of damaged melancholy. The cover photo fits the mood, and continues Library Tapes use of slightly foggy, bleak, monochrome landscape details that feature on the early albums.

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