Sunday, March 4, 2012

Lasse Marhaug - Angelica 2011/05/20 [Robert & Leopold]

Robert & Leopold has put out quite a few high-quality cassette editions by various noise artists in its short lifespan but this tape by Norwegian artist Lasse Marhaug just might be my favorite. The crisp, sparse visual design is a perfect complement to the sounds within. As the title suggests, this tape is a document of a live performance on May 20, 2011 at the Angelica Festival Internazionale di Musical in Bologna.
To be entirely honest with you, I don't recall ever hearing any of Marhaug's solo work prior to this tape but I love this stuff and I love Marhaug's style. There's so much space in the sound spectrum and Marhaug attacks it dynamically. Metal fragments clatter and jangle and deep bass tones percolate all in a bitter, uneasy air. The first fourth of the tape is probably my favorite, particularly because I love its restrained, minimal arrangement. As Marhaug's performance progresses, more elements are incorporated; waves of static agitation eventually coating the circuits and ultimately subsiding, once again revealing a bewitching aural environment.
The second side creates a thick, twitchy base of, well, bass. Blurred violin appears after some time and, later, on the other end of the stereo spectrum, strings are scraped and ground to a pulp. Halfway through, Marhaug starts in with alarmed, synthetic oscillations to play counterpart to the acoustic mangling. This is over violin sustain, whose consistency gets increasing unnerving as all other elements go into severe seizures. By the final minutes crumbling electronics have engulfed the audience.
What makes this tape so great is its overall sound is more akin to a cassette of solo percussion. Acoustic instrumentation/experimentation, percussive and non-, is vital to the performance and major props go to Roberto Monari who did a fantastic job recording the performance with dynamic clarity. The tape is not particularly aggressive, which is one of its strengths. Everyone loves a good old-fashioned mauling but Marhaug accomplishes something more difficult and infinitely more engaging. The tape is all about the details, of which I've barely scratched the surface. You hang on every peak and crag, you relish the momentary drops into semi-silence and the controlled tampering of electric and acoustic sound sources. "Atmosphere" seems an ill-fitting descriptor in this case; I prefer "presence." Angelica sounds like the work of a master at his craft.
Gone from R&L, but I'd certainly recommend testing the distro market.

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