Skog och dal
Valley low and mountain high,
under clear and open sky
paths they cross and drift apart,
unite in woods, so wild at heart!
Skog och dal is a collaboration between composer and sound artist Anders Dahl and the improvising chamber ensemble Skogen. Together they create a music where intentions and nonintentions diverge, coincide and unite in veiled transparency. The members of Skog och dal are profusely represented on the Bombax bombax label, but have also released their music on labels such as Häpna, Kning Disk and Con-V.
Erik Carlsson: Selected percussion
Anders Dahl: Electronics, pump organ, pitch pipe
Magnus Granberg: Piano, saxophone, guitar, glasses
Henrik Olsson: Bowls, cymbals, glasses, microphones, amplifier, walkie-talkies
Leo Svensson: Cello
Petter Wästberg: Electronics, various objects, electric guitar
Music composed by Magnus Granberg and Anders Dahl. Recorded by Skog och dal in Skårve Nytorp, Gröndal and Majorna during spring and summer 2009. Mixed and mastered by Anders Dahl. Artwork, Dad and his Brother, by Anna-Lena Jaktlund. Edition of 165 handmade copies. Screen printed and assembled by Maria Hägglund.
- Skog, berg, dal (20’02)
- Berg, skog, dal (19’15)
Skog, berg, dal (excerpt)
Berg, skog, dal (excerpt)
The Watchful Ear
This afternoon and evening I have been playing another of the Bombax bombax titles, a disc named Skogar, berg och dalar credited to Skog och dal, which is the Skogen quintet with Anders Dahl added to the group. I wrote about the first series of releases from the label, including the first Skogen disc here. Skog och dal are the all-Swedish group consisting of Erik Carlsson, (percussion) Anders Dahl (electronics, pump organ, pitch pipe) Magnus Granberg (piano, sax, guitar, glasses) Henrik Olsson (bowls, cymbals, glasses, microphones, amplifier, walkie-talkies) Leo Svensson (cello) and Petter Wastberg (electronics, objects, electric guitar). On this, and the previous release the group perform compositions written by Granberg, though on this release the compositional credits for the two pieces are credited to both Granberg and Dahl, though it isn’t clear if the two worked together as a pair on both tracks or if they wrote one each.
I have no information to hand about how these pieces were written and subsequently performed. i could have sent an email to the composers to try and find out, as I did for the previous review, but on this occasion I have opted not to, simply so I can experience the music without prior ideas about how it was realised or how it should sound. It could be argued that this approach will result in a less well informed review, which is probably correct, but it also results in a more enjoyable listen, and call me selfish but that’s what this blog is all about. Maybe one of the musicians can drop me a line after reading this to add anything pertinent and I’ll write a follow up piece.
As it happens I would probably would not have guessed that this was composed music. It sounds completely and thoroughly improvised. with just a few clues to its compositional origins. Right at the beginning the music jumps straight into an intricate structure with no time required for the musicians to find their feet, perhaps not typical improv, but I would have said this was the result of creative editing if I was listening to this blind. The first track is also exactly twenty minutes long, suggesting a timed structure, and all the musicians seem to move their contributions, for all of their variety through a set of structural shifts at the same time. The last Skogen disc in fact used a composition that essentially gave some structure and organisation to the musicians’ improvisations, and I suspect something similar is at work here. The music sounds very spontaneous. It is jerky and abrupt in places, quite a lot of places in fact, but it also flows nicely through these series of angular patterns and the music sounds thoroughly alive and organic.
It is actually really great work indeed. There are two pieces here, named Skog, berg, dal and Berg, skog dal repsectively, titles that suggest maybe each piece was written by separate composers, but there isn’t enough to seaparate the two tracks stylistically to be sure this is the case. The first track begins revolving around a kind of faltering clockwork styled structure with the two percussionists and Granberg’s piano at the heart, mostly softly played chimes, pings and stray Feldmanesque piano notes quite beautifully drifting around each other suggesting a regular pattern but never really finding one. Woven through this weblike structure are plucked cello notes, little bursts of dissonant electronics that change each time they appear. This collection of massed small sounds. a;; within a similar range but constantly changing and shifting make the music feel like it is played much faster than it actually is. As the piece progresses the sounds begin to slowly spread out however, each individual event allowed to expand from a brief moment into slightly longer durations. There seems to be less playing all round as well, and the music develops a warm, calm feeling, still shifting and changing but flooding outwards away from the tight activity of the opening sections. really involving, fascinating music played with no small amount of skill and resulting in a work of no small amount of beauty.
The second piece works in a similar way to how the opening track began, only at a more steady pace throughout. Sounds seem to turn and click through almost mechanical shapes, but with each note or tap or burst of white noise spaced quite perfectly from the others, and with sounds generally allowed to naturally decay. The music has a strong Feldman feel to it, that sense of repetition but not rigorous rhythm or pattern, a structure but not so strict as to make the music feel rigid. It is music that makes me feel sleepy, like Feldman’s often will, because of the languid, circular sense to the music. There is no gradual shift in dynamic of shape to this second piece, which reveals it to me to definitely be a different score, but it has a similar personality to the first piece.
I enjoyed this music a great deal. It has a character and style quite unlike anythign else I have heard recently and is in equal parts aesthetically beautiful and structurally fascinating. I have listened through several times this afternoon and evening and it doesn’t become boring, and each time through can be heard differently again. In my opinion there is still a lot of scope for exploration of the region midway between composition and improvisation and this release bears out that feeling.
Available from the Bombax bombax website, which is incidentally, one of the nicest uses of the WordPress system I have seen in a while.
Right now, inspired by this music I am now listening to Feldman’s For John Cage, Beautiful.
Consisting of Carlsson (percussion), Anders Dahl (electronics, pump organ, pitch pipe), Magnus Granberg (piano, saxophone, guitar, glasses), Henrik Olsson (bowls, cymbals, glasses, microphones, amplifier, walkie-talkie), Leo Svensson (cello) and Petter Wastberg (electronics, objects, guitar). Another solid effort, two tracks of about 20 minutes each. If I’m not entirely enthusiastic about it (as, to some extent, with the two other releases from this label), it’s just that I have a nagging sense of ease about the music, similar (to over-generalize) to the way many for4ears discs have sounded in recent years. The flow is a bit too readily channeled, perhaps. It’s a quibble–this is enjoyable work, but I get the impression these fellows can toss this off without thinking too much about it and would like to hear some tougher approaches. Or go whole hog toward the melodic.
Swedish label Bombax Bombax doesn’t release a lot, usually three a year, but I am sure these three will be available before the date mentioned on the press release, December 14th 2010. These releases come in an edition of 165 copies in a nice silkscreened cover (although the small print is not always easy to read). Bombax Bombax deal with improvised music, mostly by Swedish players. Skog Och Dal is almost like a Swedish answer to Mimeo. It features Erik Carlsson (selected percussion), Anders Dahl (electronics, pump organ, pitch pipe), Magnus Granberg (piano, saxophone, guitar, glasses), Henrik Olsson (bowls, cymbals, glasses, microphones, amplifier, walkie-talkies), Leo Svensson (cello) and Petter Wastberg (electronics, various objects, electric guitar). Effectively its a collaboration between Anders Dahl and the improvising chamber ensemble Skogen. Highly improvised here of course too, but I must say its also a bit more regular playing that is going on here. Each of the players does whatever he (no girls here!) does, and does that well, but tension seems to be lacking in this interplay. It carries on as it is, and that’s it. Its not bad, don’t get me wrong there, but no as exciting as the previous release.
Frans de Waard
Reviews in Swedish
Rating 4 of 5
För ett år sedan släppte både den improviserade kammarensemblen Skogen och ljudtrollkarlen Anders Dahl spännande skivor på egna skivbolaget Bombax Bombax. Det aktuella samarbetet är ett musikaliskt flöde som sträcker sig från avklippt kaos till öar av tysta, skarpa detaljer. Klanger kastas ut, försiktigt, alla lyssnar, vem tar nästa steg? Det är som att stiga mitt in i ett skapande rum och ständigt förundras. Piano, cello, elektronik, glas, walkie-talkies. Bland annat. Små ljud i ett stort sammanhang. Undersökningen har bara börjat. Dörren är alltid öppen.
Elektroakustiskt. Det lilla experimentbolaget Bombax Bombax verkar ha gjort det till sin tradition att årligen släppa tre skivor samtidigt. Samtliga handtryckta i en begränsad upplaga om 165 exempel vardera, och i år med – för musiktypen – minst sagt ovanliga omslag designade av Anna Lena Jaktlund. En av dessa tre skivor är Skog och Dals Skogar, berg och dalar. Gruppen består av elektroakustikensemblen Skog samt ljudkonstnären Anders Dahl – därav namnet. Med få givna mallar traskar de sig igenom dunkla, sinnrikt konstruerade ljudlandskap där begrepp som ”början” och ”slut” är av ringa betydelse. Utmärkande är de rent fantastiska kontrasterna mellan det försiktigt tassande piano- och slagverkspelet och de hotfulla oljudskaskader som kommer svepandes likt pustar av en elektrifierad orkan – ofta då man minst anar det. Om det inte hade varit för frånvaron av melodiska element så hade en jämförelse mellan detta och den australienske elektronikern Ben Frosts senaste mästerverk By the throat inte varit helt orimlig.En annan skiva i trion av Bombax-släpp från 2009 är slagverkarna Henrik Olsson och Erik Carlssons samarbete med de japanska oljudsmakarna Toshimaru Nakamura och Tetuzi Akiyama. Musikaliskt är det till större delen sinustoner i minimalistisk förpackning. Ibland avbrutna av kortare strömningar av brusande elektronik eller diskreta slagverksklanger. Nyanserna kräver nästan hörlurar för att uppskattas till fullo – som dock bör användas med viss försiktighet; plötsliga diskanttoner av denna sort kan vara minst sagt oförlåtande för icke anande öron.