For every big letdown over the course of the past year (I'm not going to name names), I've stumbled onto a miniscule release that helped to balance out my frustration a little bit. It's the little artists making music with little budget or name recognition or promotion that have caught my ear several times this year (as they have in years past) and made me smile. Opera is one of those releases, and like all great little releases out there, it's a shame that more people won't have the chance to hear it. Tape consists of three different people (Andreas Berthling, Johan Berthling, and Tomas Hallonsten) out of Sweden who have converged with a whole slew of different instruments and created this warm little gem of a release.
When I say slew, I mean it. In the liner notes, guitars, synths, harmonium, melodica, harmonica, zither, piano, flute bells, glockenspiel, trumpet, accordian, and several others are listed, and the group combines those organic sounds with ocassional field recordings and just a touch of digital trickery for a combined sound that isn't completely unlike Fridge on narcotics or a more organic sounding Mum (minus the vocals). In 10 tracks and 48 minutes, the group mixes in all those delicate instruments, but never allows things to get too overwhelming, instead allowing the tracks to breath in a very organic way and leaving plenty of room for the natural resonance of the instruments to take effect.
The release opens with "Bell Mountain," and it's a good representation of whats to come as a repetitive guitar chord is plucked over subtle, warm swarming sounds and bells ping in and out of the mix. Eventually, the whole track morphs into an even more nocturnal sound, as the guitar picks out single notes and the sound of crickets are heard. "Fire Made Of Bones" starts out with a guitar melody that leads one to believe it could break into an almost dusty-desert feel, but a wheeze of harmonium and odd little ripples of synths play out over the top, keeping the track drifting through the ether. "Summa" mixes delicate accordian with flutters of both played and manipulated acoustic guitar and other little glitchy noises for one of the less-organic sounding tracks on the release.
If you're a person who has a short attention span, this might not be the album for you, as there is very little percussion on the release, and most tracks move along at a very human pace, progressing slowly and almost as if they were in a large part improvised (which they very well could have been). While it drags on in a couple different places and it probably could have used for a touch more dynamics (the gurgling beat on "Terrace," despite it's brevity, is a welcome touch), it's still a refreshing little early-morning/late night release. It sounds like music that bats, crickets, oppossums, spiders and other creatures of the night might concoct (and who wouldn't want to see a spider playing a miniature glockenspiel while his oppossum friend plays a wheezy harmonium?) if given a chance.