CD / CD-R » Andreas Brandal – The Merchant Of Salt

Andreas Brandal – The Merchant Of Salt

Andreas Brandal – “The Merchant Of Salt” CD-R in six panel digipack (Dumpster Diving Lab, 2011)


Le Son Du Grisli:

Andreas Brandal – The Merchant Of Salt

Si les deux personnages de couverture ne respirent pas la joie, ils sont raccords avec l’univers d’Andreas Brandal. « Instable » car aussi dark ambient que pop indus, électro à la Fennesz ou dronysiaque (et j’en passe).

Le comble, c’est que The Merchant of Salt est un CD d’une cohérence incroyable qui ne justifie pas la dizaine d’années qu’il a fallu pour le voir sortir. Ces messages que Brandal envoie à destination des extraterrestres les singent ou les fantasment, et pour peu qu’ils retombent dans l’oreille d’un humain de passage voilà l’humain ravi ! On pourra maintenant citer encore Eno, Jan Jelinek (dans les rebonds de synthés old school) ou je-ne-sais-quel « maître » de B.O. de série Z : l’effet est immédiat !

Pierre Cécile © Le son du grisli

Igloo Magazine:

Andreas Brandal ‘The Merchant of Salt’

There’s something Soviet-era and musty about the sound Andreas Brandal conjures here, and something mercantile and musky about the ambiance. The Merchant of Salt has a big, warm sound, an almost naîve, early radiophonic workshop charm and inquisitiveness, while remaining utterly contemporary in arrangement and execution.

For hundreds of years, salt merchants dealt in a commodity dearer than gold and Brandal’s album is redolent of enterprising but arduous journeys to distant markets along a Silk Road trade route of the imagination. Brandal is a fine storyteller without words. He can dwell on a sound with great patience, alter its timbre, plop round, gooey notes on it, or serenade it with a lazily-strummed acoustic guitar. “School of the Thread” is a distorted riff rotating on an electric-powered loom until its warp catches up with its weft and it falls off the frame, leaving the machine to continue treadling on empty.

The ominous, creaky motif of “Staircase” and descent into darkness of “Kinetic” hint at places not advisable to visit without a lantern and local guide. The deep, bamboo exhalations of “Chance Operations” paired with their synthesized shadow notes displays just how organic Brandal’s oscillation between technologies, cultures and perceptions is, and the eerie, industrial background against which “End Game” shears the air is painted in dark colours but in great texture and detail. Closing with its title track, the sense of distant marketplace is re-enhanced, strange as the twelfth century being broadcast over a transistor radio, until it effortlessly glides into a coda like a rural church harmonium, celebrating a safe return to Christendom from far away with the goods. – Stephen Fruitman

Foxy Digitalis:

Andreas Brandal, “The Merchant of Salt”
March 19, 2012
By Andy Heater

For roughly fifteen years, Norwegian experimentalist Andreas Brandal has been one of the most interesting composers and performers in the drone-ambient-noise field, issuing dozens of dense, multi-textured albums that have satisfied everyone from psychedelic travelers looking for their empyrean fix to noise-hounds looking for the ultimate industrial-metallic abrasions (try Flesh Coffin and Avmakt on for size).

“Existence is Elsewhere” eases the listener into a flourish of tape loops and synthesizer with just a touch of feedback. Brandal continues to introduce a series of darker drones and uplifting melodies, seamlessly switching between the two streams throughout the course of the piece. “Kinetic” immediately establishes a frenetic mood, as if to break the listener out of mental lull. Sustained feedback and drones quickly give way to a more serene synth movement.

Brandal’s expert sense of development is exhibited throughout The Merchant of Salt, concluding with the title track. Here, the listener is shown rare guitar textures woven into the fabric of the piece. Oscillating synth contrasts beautifully with low-key flashes of tape hiss. The Merchant of Salt is a spacious and slow foray into the mind of a true practitioner of experimentalism. It is incredibly focused and masterfully composed.

Musique Machine:

Andreas Brandal – The Merchant of Salt [Dumpster Diving Lab – 2011]

On the evidence of the title choices, Bergen’s prolific electro-acoustic experimentalist Andreas Brandal has chosen the life and work of artist Marcel Duchamp as the theme for this album, recorded during the first half of last year.

Indeed, the phrase “Merchant of Salt” when spoken in French (“marchamp du cel”) forms a kind of spoonerism of the artist’s name while individual track titles often allude to some of his most significant works: “Anemic Cinema” was the film he made with Man Ray of one of his rotoreliefs (spinning hypnotic designs that went on to influence the Vertigo record label’s iconic logo); or, “Staircase” referencing Duchamp’s “Nude descending a staircase no. 2” that caused controversy despite its Cubist style revealing nothing titillating through it’s heavily distorting lens. With such a key figure of Twentieth Century art’s more avant garde movements, particularly Dada and Surrealism, one might expect to hear examples of Brandal’s noisier sensibilities, but instead we have a series of short, melodic refrains painted by heavily-effected guitar, ethnic flutes and smooth, suspended analog synths.

These synths, sounding somewhat like those used by the Radiophonic Workshop throughout the eighties, are central to each piece. On tracks like opener, “Existence is Elsewhere”, or later, “Chance Operations”, they glide, unfurl and extend revealing rich textures as they pass over the charming clarion calls of a flute. On “Anemic Cinema” their questing tones reach out as a melancholic folk tune is slowly strummed by one of the more recognisable guitar elements. And on the penultimate piece, “End Game” (a reference to Duchamp’s preference for chess over art in his later years), their upward and downward glissandi make the surrounding air effervesce as they form harmonically beautiful arcs in the air.

This surprisingly consonant arsenal of loops and layers is kept from seeming too proggy by a backdrop of Brandal’s more concréte concoctions: the hum and crackle of antique technologies or metallic scrapes and buzzes often intrude upon the otherwise serene synthscapes, but rarely threaten to abuse or merely scare the listener in ways much of Brandal’s previous output can. The pleasant sounds are a pleasant surprise, but without seeming to say much about its subject apart from, perhaps, the hypnotic and circular effect of Duchamp’s revolving rotoreliefs achieved here through extensive use of loops. Instead, we get a smooth soundtrack that suggests the science fiction of, say, Peter Davidson’s Doctor Who more than Duchamp’s game-changing readymades, which, in purely musical terms, is possibly all the better for it, while once again showcasing Brandal’s ear for texture amidst the tones however tuneful

Rating: 3 out of 5 – Russell Cuzner

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