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Steve Roden / Roel Meelkop / Heribert Friedl - Oder Delias or Butterflies / >Momentum< / Bradycard

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Artist: Steve Roden / Roel Meelkop / Heribert Friedl

Album: Oder Delias or Butterflies / >Momentum< / Bradycard

Label: nv°

Review date: Dec. 11, 2005

Austrian installation artist and musician Heribert Friedl is behind the non visual objects label (nvo for short) which releases lowercase music in ergonomic cardboard packaging. Friedl has worked with Bernhard Günter in the past and his aesthetic is not a million miles from Günter’s own, but the three opening salvos from nvo justify Friedl’s entry into the densely over-populated world of self-run imprints. In the case of the label’s first release, Steve Roden’s Oder Delias or Butterflies, the world is indeed a little better off for its existence.

Oder Delias or Butterflies rates among Roden’s best work: it’s up there with Speak No More About the Leaves as one of his most affecting releases. Roden’s strongest suit is his ability to personalize his art for the listener at the very moment he disengages from it as performer. Oder Delias or Butterflies draws its title from dream logic and translation and its predominant sound source is a bamboo flute made by Günter, which grounds the 40-minute composition in Roden’s experience, but his gentle touch with the material somehow allows him to efface his own presence from the resultant piece.

Oder Delias or Butterflies is paced slowly, with submerged wind tones gently pirouetting through the opening stretch, after which Roden beds down with muted strikes of gongs, the gentle rustle of chimes, and something that sounds like a burnished, tremolo-stoked organ. Roden’s work may use loops as sustenance but he never brings the scaffolding of his work to your attention; rather, he softly places you within the composition’s self-contained world, a benign insect landing on a lily pad amidst the quietly humming busy-ness of nature’s everyday.

Roel Meelkop’s music enacts a similar effacement: Meelkop usually demands that no text appear on any of his releases, to allow sound to float free of association. Meelkop has acquiesced twice recently, however, first on his 5 (Ambiences) disc for Intransitive, and now on >Momentum<, where he alerts the listener to these five pieces’ birthing in sound installations. Keeping with his past work, Meelkop scrubs his textures down to sanded grays, leaning on accumulations of hiss and simmer as balustrades on which he hangs sparely attended incident.

At times Meelkop’s approach is a bit too ponderous, and he leans a little too heavily on the rote sounds of software. However, he is a sensitive composer blessed with an adroit sense of space and place, and most of >Momentum< manages to balance between the immersive and the impenetrable while maintaining an oblique, understatedly inquisitive tone. The highlight is the closing “Sined” from 2002, where Meelkop spills sine tones through the air, stirring them into strange configurations and sculpting them into abstrusely shaped bells.

In the linernotes to Bradycard, Heribert Friedl states that he wants to make “very slow, from meditative to almost lethargic gestures that bring the mind into a smoothly flowing state.” He has certainly come close with the 50 minutes of Bradycard (the title is a medical term for slow [under 60 bpm] heart rhythm), but I could have handled Bradycard being slower still, less focused on the processed drones and tones strained from Friedl’s cimbalom. The bed of field recordings that Friedl rolls out underneath these two pieces is borderline-hackneyed (particularly the rainstorm that opens the set) but Friedl uses their mood-enhancing properties to good effect, wrapping them around the low abrasions and occasional pinprick hisses from the cimbalom much like fabric thrown over a couch. There’s comfort in Bradycard, though one can’t help but feel that Friedl didn’t quite move far enough toward the ‘lethargic gesture.’ Regardless, it’s a gorgeous album.

By Jon Dale

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