Alexander Rishaug
Possible Landscapes
Asphodel
2004
B-



it’s hard to evaluate an album like this. No, bear with me, I mean hard in a way that’s non-trivially different from the ways in which it’s hard to evaluate any album. Part of it is the scope; for a record that determinedly sticks within the clicks and cuts school of abstract minimalism Possible Landscape is all over the place, emotionally and sonically. And yet despite all the range this music stays slightly out of reach, inhabiting the ears but always remaining aloof. At its worst, in fact, Rishaug’s music brings to mind the way Autechre’s Confeld seemed more interested in just making sounds than music, but for the most part he manages to strike the balance between predictability and inscrutability just so.

“The Mountain Song” opens by piling tones on top of each other like pick-up-sticks before dropping the tones and gently fading out over the course of minutes. Six of the seven tracks here are over eight minutes but the length never feels forced by virtue of the way they’re made; it’s not the dry introduction/climax/fade structure you often see, although the ends do tend to involve fading. But those ends are utterly integral and often the more interesting bits, especially the way “My Favorite Place” seems like a thirteen-minute dying fall. Even the shimmering “Or L!”, the highlight of Possible Landscapes, seems to barely exist. The vistas of the title seem barely feasible as opposed to probable, and that’s part of the charm.

The only real misstep here is “Cross Platform”, which burbles menacingly to itself for a good six minutes before actually engaging with the listener. The other songs don’t actively court the listener but they at least make room for listening, whereas “Cross Platform” just repeats itself. “Tatlic” is the most immediately engaging track due to its heightened sense of activity (all quickly panning tones and almost busy signals) but it quickly subsides into the odd subdued crackle and snap in a rather disheartening fashion. Luckily it’s separated from “Cross Platform” by “Dual Appearance”, which sounds kind of like one of the more repetitive tracks from Scannerfunk’s Wave Of Light By Wave Of Light album run through a light sheen of static and half deconstructed. That feeling of tenuousness is the overriding impression of Rishaug’s work here and makes one wish he hadn’t stuck quite as many crackles into some of the tracks here, as they prevent the listener from fully relaxing into the sound (which some may view as a positive, admittedly).

But it’s the first two songs, “The Mountain Song” and “Or L!”, that really stay with you. Both take a single, distinct sonic element and layer them in such a fashion as to create both progress and emotional tone (slow climb to success and a vague sense of uneasiness, respectively) before indulging in extended section that slowly dismantles the track and packs it away. The other tracks on Possible Landscape aren’t quite as focused and so almost diffuse away from your ear. The sort of hazy reflection Rishaug’s work inspires isn’t likely to be something most will want to indulge in terribly often, but when they do this is a potent brew.



Reviewed by: Ian Mathers
Reviewed on: 2005-03-10
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