Tapes » Andreas Brandal – Into Thin Air

Andreas Brandal – Into Thin Air

Andreas Brandal – “Into Thin Air” C37 tape (Sweat Lodge Guru, 2010)


Foxy Digitalis:

Andreas Brandal “Into Thin Air” tape

From Norway comes this perfect autumnal artifact. You wouldn’t need to see Brandal’s lengthy discography to know he’s a veteran at this; the haunted mood and intense filmic quality of “Into Thin Air” make his expertise evident. Side A and most of Side B consist of vaguely sinister dronescapes of the nocturnal, wooded, and desolate variety. The tape ends with surprising synthesizer spurts as if the Necronomicon tore open the night sky.

Excluding the last couple of tracks, Brandal’s songs are built from sustained drones that shift, unravel, pulse and pan; guitar that ranges from rhythmic strums to a decayed and sorry plinking; and stray industrial noise that clatters and clinks along. These combined techniques are repeated and revisited to document a particular mood, much like Impressionist painters would revisit the same environment to paint changes in light.

The beginning of the tape works at the theme of entropy, as each iteration of a soundworld is progressively blasted away and degraded. Only after the music has deteriorated badly is it allowed to change into something clean and shimmering. This tape seems to offer up something new on every listen, especially during Side B’s abrupt shifts in tone, glassy interference patterns, electronic pulses, and that crazy synth work that brings things to a bizarre conclusion, to a cliffhanger at the edge of space. Brandal is a spellcaster.
– 8/10 (Mike Pursley)


Auxiliary Out:

I’ve been hearing a lot about Norwegian musician Andreas Brandal as he’s had releases on such illustrious labels as Stunned and Tape Drift among others, and now I finally get to hear him.
The multi-tracked guitar affair of the title track kicks off the tape. The track has a dark shimmer like the artwork. It’s harmonious though not particularly melody-driven but Brandal does a good job creating atmosphere with a relatively standard mode of guitar playing (muted strumming and single-note lines.) It ends on a cool rattling rhythm too. “The Whispering Gallery” plucks bass notes over a continuous, though shifting, guitar drones.
There’s a nice interplay between the drones and melody, as the piece gently veers back and forth between tonality and strained semi-atonality. Like the piece before it, it ends on an interesting loop of a cricket-sounding device among other things.
“Invisible Green” has great rustic piano-playing and various sounds of jingling chimes, brittle leaves crunching underfoot and somebody rustling around an attic. Brandal’s guitar playing is very nice but it’s this stuff that really gets me going, as these sounds are so pungent, and dripping with natural atmosphere that the subtle drones lying dormant aren’t even necessary. “Shadow” is all ghostly harmonics and hushed, hollow metal clinks. “A Midnight Visitor” has a great, wheezy organ which stumbles around in a stupor, most likely after having too much fun on the devil’s day.
Mechanized burblings occur in the background before dropping out allowing a lovely, but ominous, string part (cello I think) to lead the piece to an impeccable end.
The organ returns for the b-side on “Room Number 3.” Drones rise and cut off sharply, in a thickly woody atmosphere. There’s a short melody that sounds like an organ coughing, or choking maybe, that’s rather interesting in the piece’s stark environment. “The Seven of Hearts” sounds like it might have a bit of effected banjo though I s’pose it could just be guitar. What sounds like a recording of footsteps (or maybe people playing basketball) creates a cool little underlying rhythm while the banjo/guitar/whatever continues its arpeggio. The piece shifts into a pretty bed of organ drones where it finally lays itself to rest. “A Premonition” changes up the pace considerably with what’s more or less an electronic beat and a bit of synth action. The piece still fits into the quilt of the album but alters the color palette a little bit. Closer, “It Walks By Night” moves further down this path with unsubtle synth sweeps and siren-like oscillations. The piece develops into some kind Romero zombie movie-esque score, maybe not literally as I haven’t seen one in years but that’s what is coming to mind. Heavy synthetic swirls, haunting melody, you get the idea.
The tape is a nice little suite moving from guitar to organ to synth. Brandal has been making music for a while now and you can tell, his hand is very sure and the tape has a very mature feel. Both tapes are still available from Sweat Lodge Guru, which looks to be a label to keep your eye on.


Animal Psi:

Andreas Brandal – “Into Thin Air”

Not speaking guitar but speaking through a guitar, ‘Into Thin Air’ is a wonderful translation of Andreas Brandal’s moody aesthetics through perhaps his most instrument-centered release yet, with guitar challenged only by tracks of synthesizer which up the contrast in this two-track method. At the same time, the album’s technical prowess and discrete selection of stories makes the tape’s nine songs and thirty seven minutes feel like his most “real” release so far, a true album (and this is certainly aided by Sweat Lodge Guru’s fine sleeve print and beautiful imprinting).
From the title track to the similarly gothic “The Whispering Gallery” and “A Premonition”, Brandal’s macabre sensibilities are more present than ever. These feature flawlessly-picked notes in an atmosphere so charged and so devoid that you can hear the fumes of evil which draft about the room. Cresting through the melodramatic sawing of “A Midnight Visitor” and on into “Room Number 3” – midterm tracks which sustain such extremes as to insert a bit of camp into the otherwise truly creepy introductory spirituals, the devilish incantations of “The Seven of Hearts”, or the John Carpenter menace of “It Walks By Night” – Brandal’s taste for horror offers a truly unique compositional direction from which to work in such an experimental climate. 100 copies. Recommended!


Musique Machine:

Andreas Brandal – Into Thin Air [Sweat Lodge Guru – 2010]

Here’s a very professionally presented tape from Sweat Lodge Guru, with dapper inlay artwork, inlay printing and on-tape printing. The sounds inside are evidence of a lot of effort too. The cassette has nine tracks (spread across both sides) of dark, eerie sound-scapes. I wouldn’t personally consider them to be particularly akin to soundtracks, but that should give you a sense of their territory.

Restraint and ease are the order of the day here; the overall sound is subtle and unhurried, often with just a few elements circling each other. I’ve said “ease” but I should say “unease”, since the general atmosphere of the tape is one of dread; though not exactly a deathly dread – more perhaps the unsettling feeling of being in a forest at night and looking up at the sky: beautiful, magical, even psychedelic; but also unsettling and dwarfing. As exceptions to this, there are two tracks with a more overtly sinister tone: “A Midnight Visitor”, with a grinding and groaning accordion, followed by some tense cello; and “It Walks By Night”, which is a dark procession performed on synthesizer – with a very science-fiction result.

Brandal has a nicely pared palette – essentially a guitar and some kind of synth. Woven around these are field recordings, and a little accordion and cello. The guitar is used particularly well, taking several guises and never sounding stale or samey. As I’ve already said, Brandal is in no rush with these tracks, and sounds creep and tip-toe along, unforced. This doesn’t exactly mean a predominance of droning – though there are several drones, all with different characters. “Invisible Green” has a reverberating drone, over which is laid some very wooden-sounding guitar; the next track, “Shadow”, has a much lusher drone, with guitar harmonics pealing over the top and, coming at the end of the tape, “A Premonition” settles into a thick “casio” drone after some resonant, pulsing and disorientating synthesizer loops. Should all this suggest a very “clean” sound, it should be noted that there are numerous field recordings scattered in and around the tracks: background footsteps, clanking, scratching, unintelligible noises. Where there isn’t an obvious drone, there’s often still a subtle sense of movement and propulsion – the tracks may not be hurried, but they don’t stand still either. They’re often little ideas explored well, with tracks having a very natural length and pace; although I feel like the last track wanted to go on longer. This is a minor quibble.

This is a cassette with a little self-contained world in it. A little world portrayed through very expansive sounds. If not exactly soundtracks, then perhaps the pieces are more sound-poems; illustrating a narrative defined by the track titles.

Rating: 4 out of 5 – Martin P


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