Saturday, October 1, 2011

Svarte Greiner - Twin and Miscellanea

Svarte Greiner is the solo project of Norway's Erik K. Skodvin, perhaps better known as one-half of Deaf Center. For years now, Skodvin has been taking cello, electronics, tape, and what sounds like mic'd scrap metal and turning out haunted soundscapes, blackened to a pitch, steeped in nightmares, owing, it seems, a huge debt to our primal fear of things that go bump in the night. Earlier this year, Deaf Center put out their newest album, the obliquely titled Owl Splinters, and included with a limited number of the first pressing a bonus CD. Type, the label that put out Owl Splinters, has gotten into the habit of doing this, rewarding fans who manage to snap up a copy of many of their albums before they inevitable go out of print and start selling for four times the original price on discogs and ebay. Recent LPs by Yellow Swans, Richard Skellton, Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, and Rene Hell to name just a few all had free bonus CDs. It's a really wonderful trend, especially since these bonus CDs are far from random, cast-off freebies; Generally they account for enough music to constitute a wholly separate album. That's certainly the case here with Twin,  Owl Splinter's bonus CD containing a single, nearly 46-minute track from Skodvin under the Svarte Greiner moniker. It's hard to tell but this piece may be a reworking of material from Owl Splinters. In any event, it's entirely it's own beast and probably the best thing Svarte Greiner has done to date.

Twin starts off with an oceanically deep loop of droning processed cello. It almost sounds like the solemn chanting of a long forgotten sect of Alpine monks huddled in their frost encrusted monasteries hewn from the mountains themselves. This loop builds upon itself, adding dimensions, taking on a ragged edge, pulsing with sinister harmonics, fraying tendrils of static, a sawing rasp of tangled feedback. The intensity rises through the first third, eerie and laden with menace, the sound, perhaps, of a fractured and ever-disintegrating world. At the same time it is an ancient, almost primal sound. This isn't music for the end of the world by machines; rather it is the soundtrack to the terror of night and the unknown violence therein surely felt by our early ancestors, cavemen praying for a splinter of flint to throw - even for a moment, even if just a spark - some light into the perpetual black. A slowly heaving, wailing, crumbling, roaring pulse of drone washes over the listener.

Around the 16-minute mark, things change. The bellow and roar of the first third is gone. A siren-like sweep of electronics washes out over an utterly desolate expanse of ghostly ambiance. A tangle of murmuring, chaotically bowed strings rises and falls through a dank mist of analog murk - reminiscent of Xela's The Sublime but less minimal, more deeply layered. Percussion like snapping tree limbs, rusted metal on rusted metal, creaking door hinges is woven into this tapestry or sound

Twin's final third is almost suffocatingly intense. Loops of decaying cello, a funereal organ, disintegrating bits of tape and static - dissolving audio detritus threaded throughout. The final minutes are all organ in full dirge, long forgotten radios playing out their final, static-ridden moments of life. It's black as pitch, an apocalyptic, scorched earth blast to sing us into oblivion.

And yet, despite all this, Twin is exceptionally beautiful. Bleak, yes, but it's clearly the work of a master craftsman. Immensely affective and evocative, fans of drone, noise, and even modern and avant-garde classical alike should give this a serious listen.

Included in the download are some other rare Svarte Greiner goodies. Rips of the Ragsokk and Depardieu 7"s from 2006, plus a track from the SMM: Context compilation put out by Ghostly International last year and the 18-minute long "A Night Without Harm," a live recording from early 2007. Nightmares for everyone!!

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