Gradually I’m catching up on some of the releases from last year that were high on my “to hear” list. The Short Night came out last September and is one of those CDs that has built up a strong reputation largely through good old fashioned word of mouth recommendations. Monorail in Glasgow say that they are shifting copies at twice the rate now than they were when it was released.
The Short Night takes field recordings from southern England, Sweden, Iceland and Italy and weaves them into a web of electronic drones and ambient washes. In some ways it feels like a nautical equivalent of the astronomical journeys of Murcof’s Cosmos. “Front” is a long, relatively static opener that serenely glides along with little in the way of changes. “Finisterre” starts in a similar vein, but with a much darker hue. The lapping water and singing gulls give way to an almost metallic drone, before a warmer, rolling wash of sound envelops the track with a subtle, slightly glitchy melancholy that builds into a stormy crescendo.
“Pole Of Inaccessibility” hums with sub-bass drones, and high end crackle, but has a calm centre and ends with the twitter of birds and a six second snatch of the Shipping Forecast (“Viking, Cromarty…”). “The Black Light” has an air of menace that ends in a short shard of white noise, whereas “Icing Station” takes the levels down again. The album ends with its best track, “Viking North”, a penetrating drone piece that threatens to turn the speakers into piles of smouldering ash before relenting and fading into another, slightly warped, rendition of the Shipping Forecast.
The Short Night falls into an area of experimental electronic music somewhere between Murcof, Stars Of The Lid, Biosphere and Pan Sonic. What it lacks in obvious melody, it more than makes up for in mood and atmosphere. Even at its most serene, there is an air of threat, and yet at its most threatening there is also a calm constancy at the centre. Like the aforementioned artists, Nilsen is pushing music into areas where environmental and generated sounds are becoming indistinguishable. A kind of back-to-nature, earth science electronica if that makes any sense.
1 Front (14:24)
2 Finisterre (9:35)
3 Pole Of Inaccessibility (6:33)
4 Viking, Cromarty… (0:06)
5 Black Light (4:16)
6 Icing Station (2:16)
7 Viking North (10:53)