Working under both his own name and Hazard, BJ Nilsen has been straddling the divide between natural sound and music for over a decade. While he favors one side over the other, as he does on The Short Night’s first track “Front,” both get their due. That piece opens with a flammable whoosh that’ll have you looking nervously for flames climbing up your draperies, then plunges right into something much colder. High electronic tones pierce a gray wash of rain, hovering long enough for you to fetch your woolen accessories, then the vista changes again to a field of mellow, tolling synthesizers that in turn fade to a distant, chilly whistle. This aural evocation of feverishly extreme temperature swings doesn’t suck you in with overwhelming force; rather, it transforms at a distance and then lures you in while you try to investigate.
The album sounds more manmade as it progresses. After the brief shipping news snippet “Viking, Cromarty” marks the record’s halfway point, old keyboard sounds crowd the environmental ones. But they never quite overwhelm them, hovering in the background while the synths’ bracing gusts first crystallize and then crumble with analog distortion.
Nilsen is not prone to making statements about his music, but I like to think that he blends field recordings and instrumental sounds to draw attention to the notion that we live in the world, not in spite of it.