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Fade To White

BJ Nilsen
Fade To White

When my friends and I are talking about ambient music (and music in general), we sometimes invent our own definitions for words to convey what different things sound like and/or whether or not we think that the other person would like them. One of our most recent terms we've started using in reference to ambient music is whether it's "scrapey" or not. For example, ambient music such as early work by Brian Eno would most definitely not be "scrapey," but some work by artists like Christian Fennesz and Philip Jeck fall into this description. The word could basically be described as "amount of harshness, feedback, etc" that a particular track has, but I think we just say it over and over because it seems funny for some reason.

At any rate, BJ (aka Benny) Nilsen is a sound designer from Sweden who records acoustic and electrical instruments in open spaces. Those recordings also pick up natural ambience and the blending in with environmental sounds of nature, then Nilsen brings it all back into the studio and arranges it on the computer, creating sweeping layers of sound that yes, are sometimes a bit "scrapey." This is his third album for Touch Records, and like all releases of this nature is somewhat subjective in terms of what an individual listener will think of it.

Over the course of six tracks and roughly forty-five minutes of time, I have to admit that at times I'm pretty astounded by the sounds created on the release, and at other times I'm simply left scratching my head. Although most of the release was recorded outside, it's somewhat cold by nature in terms of the overall sound projected. "Purple Phase" opens with what sounds like the distant sound of heavy machinery clunking around before it drifts into a bed of feedback that starts out high-frequency and eventually envelops the full range of sound, adding layers like a slow motion Charlemagne Palestine performance (amped to the Nth degree).

"Dead Reckoning" starts out with what sounds like broken-down tape loops struggling to free themselves before ending with a droning hum that flickers with the sound of wind in the microphone. "Impossibilidad" opens with one of the warmest, softest tonal pieces on the entire release, but over the course of its running time evolves into a buzzing, humming swarm of feedback layers before again peeling back and closing with a beautiful finale. If one were to look at Fade To White as a whole, it would be easy to hear the release (especially given the sound sources) as a struggle of the organic versus the inorganic and perhaps even nature versus machine. At times, the natural ambience of pieces is absolutely beautiful, but most of the time swaths of feedback or processing render soft drones into harsh landscapes that seem as unforgiving as the setting of Harlan Ellison's famous short story "I Have No Mouth But I Must Scream" (which I've referenced in other electronic recordings in which the machines seem to be defeating humanity). If you're intersted in slowly-shifting pieces of harsh landscapes, this might be the album for you, otherwise you might want to opt for something with a little more soul.

Rating: 5