TO:77 – BJNilsen “The Invisible City”

CD – 8 tracks – 1:04:57
Jewel case with concertina insert
Artwork & Photography by Jon Wozencroft
Plus bonus 320kbps .mp3 download – 1 track – 33:44
TO:77DL – BJNilsen “Live at Café Oto”, Atmospheres 3, 7.xii.09
Available only when purchasing “The Invisible City” via the TouchShop.

Track listing:

1. Gravity Station
2. Phase and Amplitude
3. Scientia
4. Virtual Resistance
5. Meter Reading
6. Into Its Coloured Rays
7. Gradient
8. The Invisible City

About this release:

Recorded and Mixed during 2008-2009 in Berlin.

All tracks composed by BJNilsen using Tape Recorders, Computer, Organ, Acoustic Guitar, Electronics, Viola, Subharchord. Field recordings from; Sweden, Iceland, Norway, UK, Japan, Portugal and Germany. The Subharchord was recorded in the EAM Studio @ Adk, Berlin. Viola played by Hildur I. Gudnadottir.

Mastered by Denis Blackham at Skye
Published by Touch Music [MCPS]


Reviews:

The Sound Projector (UK):

MOJO (UK):

4/5
Swedish composer Nilsen uses a heavily processed plethora of field recordings, electronics; something called a Subharchord, and the viola of Hildur Gudnadottir to conjure his teeming, purring, evocations. Mechanised yet insectoid, industrial yet primordial, it suggests the city as a thrumming, quivering organism. [David Shepherd]

Fail (UK):

In a time-honoured tradition that seems to be required of all Touch artists; field recordings and naturally sourced sounds form the foundational basics here. Giving the entire album a generative, almost evolving narrative.

Along with the serene Wozencroft artwork, this might give the impression that it’s ambient and background-friendly, but this is certainly not the case. If anything the constant tense mood could almost threaten to overwhelm the work as a whole. Even toppling over into bursts of waveform violence….sonically this is no easy ride.

Obviously being a saddo sub-bass spotter, the low-end rumble of ‘Scientia’ proved instantly appealing. But it’s the incredibly elegiac fade of the concluding title track that is the most affecting. This may sound slightly out of place as London is gripped by a Mediterranean glow but I can’t think of a better sonic accompaniment when the weather turns on us.

Earlabs (Netherlands):

8/10
A new album by sound artist BJ Nilsen does not show a huge musical direction, but with a new thematic inspiration.

In the works of BJ Nilsen there has always been a place for the organic and natural feel. Either be it through field recordings or other sounds. Even when he started with his work as Hazard, though now for his latest release The Invisible City he seems to take a small step away from this. Like in his previous works things are still dealing with cold sounds, but here the music is much more focused on the urban environment.

With every piece Nilsen has been working with a different setting of instruments and sound sources, but always with the returning element of field recordings. This is no different from his older work, but the way field recordings are reworked are different. They sound more abstract, more distant from the source sound. The different recordings are at times also quite strange, what to say about “dead trees leaning against each other”, or “amplified chair dragged across floor” (maybe a reference to LaMonteYoung’s The Theater of Eternal music).

At first things might really seem as on huge wavering drone, but much more is happening. There are hidden melodic elements that run in several pieces, usually put away behind layers of dust and noises, but sometimes like in Scientia do pop-up from the dense layer.
Nilsen really knows how to work through his music with small details. Like in Virtual Resistance he makes use of “footsteps on snow”, but by the used effects it turns into strange rolling sounds, which at times reappear. Unlike so many other field recording artists he knows to make use of the recordings in a way they have a purpose instead of just being there.

This shows actually how amazing the work by BJ Nilsen actually is. Things are well thought through and nothing goes with out a purpose.

In the music you can hear the hectic back the hectic life in the city, as well as the abandoned buildings you can find so very often in old industrial cities.

The Invisible City doesn’t shows a huge change musicwise, but the theme is in great contrast with the older work. And even without the big change still you can be pleased easily. BJ Nilsen shows again his place in the world of experimental ambient music.
Go check it out. [Sietse van Erve]

headphonecommute (UK):

I have to admit that I’m mildly surprised by where my musical preferences are taking me these days. Until recently, I didn’t really have much patience for drone and noise music. I found it intriguing but I couldn’t really wrap my head around it. Now I find myself increasingly gravitating toward these more abstract forms of music, especially if they incorporate field recordings. There’s something primordial about this music, as if it allows you to engage with some elementary force deep within.

The sharp edges that I used to find grating are now so deeply satisfying. Am I hearing it differently? I don’t know. But I do know that for me, listening to music like B.J. Nilsen’s seems to slow the passage of time. Gradually, the sounds combine to build a scene that remains constant over an extended period of time, giving you the time to peel away the surface and submerge yourself in the substance beneath. It really focuses the mind. It’s what I imagine meditation must be like.

B.J. Nilsen is one of the shining lights of the treasured Touch label roster and a luminary of electronic drones and field recordings. I just recently discovered his stunning last album, The Short Night (Touch, 2006), and his latest, The Invisible City, is another high water mark. Nilsen has traveled as far afield as Japan and Portugal for the source material for his field recordings and the track notes provide fascinating insight into the building blocks of Nilsen’s compositions. Along with the electronics, acoustic instruments (Hildur Gudnaudottir makes another appearance on [pitch-regulated] viola) and processors he uses, Nilsen lists the recorded sound sources.

And so, “amplified chair dragged across floor”, “window shutters”, “steel whistle coffeepot” and “birdsong” place their indelible mark on the opening track Gravity Station. A few minutes in, underneath a steady thick metallic drone and the hum of vibrating electrical lines, you can just barely make out what sounds like the weaving tones of a Middle Eastern flute – something you might hear off in the distance in a busy sun-drenched Arabian market. Or is it my imagination? Then, halfway through the almost 17 minute track, the chair and shutters lurch loudly and rudely across the sound field, heralding a rather menacing and doom-laden finale. A frantic chorus of birdsong whips things into a frenzy before the end comes with desperate bursts of twisted noise.

What does it all mean? I don’t know. But on the whole, Nilsen’s sound sculptures – which seems to me a more fitting description than “music” – are ominous. If they are indeed a representation of some aspect of city life, then it must be of an urban underbelly. Of dark things that lurk underneath the surface, like the high-pitched static squeals in Scientia that recall rats scurrying around the sewers beneath our cities. But more than anything, the music evokes industry and technology, from churning motors and machinery grinding to a halt in Phase and Amplitude to a burst of a fax transmission at the beginning of Virtual Resistance. Digital data snaking its way through the invisible passageways that lie behind the walls of our constructions.

The ironic thing is that many of the field recordings originate in nature. Bumblebees, wasps, birdsong, flapping wings, crows, rain, footsteps on snow, “dead trees leaning against each other”. But they are usually manipulated and processed to such an extent that they are unrecognizable. Nevertheless, they bring life, depth and movement to a cold and hard backdrop constructed of wires and steel. And together these elements form remarkable sound sculptures that will undoubtedly stand the test of time. [Tigon]

Dusted (USA):

In BJ Nilsen’s carefully balanced combinations of natural, performed, and manipulated sounds, nature often seems to have the upper hand. But not on The Invisible City. Its naturally sourced elements, which he’s scrupulously noted track by track, have been digitally processed into subtly humorous grotesques; the bumblebees on “Phase and Amplitude” have been processed into something more akin to a field recording of trucks rumbling in and out a distant construction site, and “Scientia’s” birdsongs has been transformed into pitilessly piercing lances of feedback.

But the humans don’t fare much better. The heroically wailing electric guitar on “Virtual Resistance” gets buried under unidentifiable electronic blasts, bringing to mind images of puny mankind being smudged out by contemptuous Aeolian blasts. And that’s about as evident as people get in this city; it may be the work of mankind, but individual people have been wiped away, perhaps just moments before the listener’s arrival. A weather broadcast flickers into hearing for a moment, and then disappears. An identifiable instrument heaves into the foreground only to be electronically blanched, twisted, and crumpled into something no longer recognizable. The cover images are studies of sparsely lit buildings and empty streets with nary a person in sight. This is the city as experienced by a solitary visitor whose circadian rhythms are set to a different clock. The emptiness is frightening, the occasional surges of activity even more so.

Late in the journey the album detours into recognizable music. With its swelling guitar noise and organ chords, “Gradient” feels a distant kin to Popol Vuh’s soundtracks for Werner Herzog’s movies, which so often accompanied visual meditations of places that man couldn’t reach or hold. It’s a calming gesture, one that is whipped away by the title track’s final blinding flash of sped-up tape. Nilsen has been working in this vein for a decade, but on The Invisible City he’s really upped his game. This is his most emotionally affecting work to date. [Bill Meyer]

The Silent Ballet (USA):

Long considered a staple in the Touch roster, BJ Nilsen is a master of field recording-based music. Previously stunning audiences with Fade to White and A Short Night, BJ Nilsen doesn’t budge an inch on The Invisible City and delivers another disc densely filled with layers of static, electronic hums and pulses and cold, steely recordings. It’s a disc that is perfectly befitting of the desolate substructures of a city, where humans are a scarcity and machines tirelessly slave away to keep the infrastructure functioning. From deafening silence to ear drum splitting outbursts of noise, Nilsen shows again why he’s one of the most respected experimental artists working today, and why few have been able to match his creative insight.

The Wire (UK):

Mapsadaisical (UK):

In recent years, Christian Fennesz and Philip Jeck may have stolen the critical plaudits for the Touch label, but arguably the label’s most vital artist is Stockholm’s BJ Nilsen. His diverse interests have led him into collaborate with the UK’s premier sound recordist Chris Watson, and with Icelandic experimentalists Stillupsteypa and cellist Hildur Gudnadottir. It is in his solo work, both on record and in concert, that he has brought all this together, fusing field recordings with electronics to create coherent works focusing on the interface between humans and nature. And, particularly in the case of new album The Invisible City, with technology.

Nilsen’s excellent 2006 album The Short Night took him on an Arctic exploration, and while The Invisible City features recordings from as far South as Portugal, it feels little warmer or lighter. For the most part, these are some particularly dark and icy atmospheres, and feel a further step removed from life, if not from civilisation. The images The Invisible City evokes for me are of the unseen networks which support the city: electrical grids, subterranean transport, and telecommunication channels. This may appear odd when you read that the sound sources appear to some extent to be typical Nilsen fare, including bees, wasps, birds and cats, but they too find themselves sucked into these conduits. None of those feature on opener “Gravity Station”, which starts from near silence as “Front” did on The Short Night. Layers of electrical hum and sine waves are topped with a phone line burble which builds in intensity, before exploding into scarred metallic fragments. I think this must be what it would feel like to send yourself by fax (note to self: don’t ever try this). The animals’ attempts at communication bleed into these networks, with the birdsong of “Scientia” and “Virtual Resistance” processed into digital unrecognisability. The latter glows with a harsh street-light buzz, as someone’s footsteps emerge from late night underground station rumble. The train batters on through into “Meter Reading“, the grind of metal-on-metal gradually wearing away at the piece to leave a silent black platform, before tearing off again through the rain on the propulsive title track, ending the album on a thrilling and fulfilling note. The Invisible City fades fast into the distance, into the air, and into the ground. I’ll be taking many return journeys.
Purchases of The Invisible City from the Touch shop come with a download of BJ Nilsen’s performance at Cafe Oto last month.

Brainwashed (USA):

Using unrecognizably tweaked field recordings of cats, crows, bees, wasps, boat ramps, and dead trees, the ever-reliable BJ Nilsen has crafted yet another complex and desolately beautiful suite of droning ambiance that subtly crackles and buzzes with life. The Invisible City might be the first great headphone album of 2010.

Sweden’s BJ Nilsen has a surprisingly recognizable aesthetic for such an inherently faceless genre. Superficially, of course, all the central elements of contemporary electronic drone are here: a sustained and hypnotically shifting backbone, subterranean throbs, and a fluttering array of non-musical sounds dancing around it all. However, BJ is in a league by himself in regards to meticulousness, exactitude, and discipline. There is no clutter or bloat here, no laziness, and no attempt to use density to create an illusion of power and depth. Instead, Nilsen very starkly and crisply conveys exactly what he needs to and no more.

In lesser hands, that degree of calculation and artifice would probably result in a bloodless and clinical-sounding album. Actually, I suppose it is not completely unreasonable to describe this album as “clinical,” but it would be totally missing the point. The Invisible City is a deliberately cold, lonely, and futuristic-sounding album. Rather than an invisible city, it much more aptly evokes a haunting and Lynchian tableau of an utterly empty city at night, traffic lights endlessly flickering purposelessly and swaying in the gentle wind. Given the organic and nature-themed roots of much of the album’s source material, that is a pretty perverse place to wind up.

The liner notes provide a very interesting inventory of the sounds used for each individual track, which makes for an engrossing listening experience. Given that most of the field recordings are digitized into oblivion, I found it fascinating to try to figure out when exactly I was hearing an “amplified chair dragged across floor” or “dead trees leaning up against each other.” On the rare occasions when the source material is clearly recognizable, it is usually employed to disquieting effect (particularly the snowy footsteps in “Virtual Resistance”). The unnerving barrenness and alienation of the album creates a kind of vacuum that heightens the impact when anything recognizably human intrudes (and renders it vaguely sinister). Also, while there is generally not much overtly musical happening aside from occasional shimmering organ chords, vintage analog synthesizer fetishists will be thrilled to learn that Nilsen uses a subharchord for several tracks.

Those already familiar with BJ Nilsen’s work will not be surprised by much here, but they certainly will not be disappointed either. Nilsen has a very distinct and specific vision and he is steadily progressing and evolving within those narrow confines, but his trajectory is not likely to be obvious to casual listeners. The important thing is that BJ excels at what he does: the compositions themselves may be overtly minimal in nature, but the production transforms the base materials into something much deeper and more mesmerizing. This is layering at its most deft, as the glacially unfolding framework of the pieces houses a panning and warping hive of small-scale chaos. The Invisible City is a subtly mind-bending album of crystalline clarity and cold beauty. [Anthony D’Amico]

VITAL (Netherlands):

By now BJ Nilsen (or rather BJNilsen) is a mainstay on the Touch label. He is not a man of many words, or big concepts. I am not sure what the title ‘The Invisible City’ refers to, but it does have a detailed list of all of his sound sources per piece. Its an interesting read of ‘amplified chair dragged across floor, window shutters, steel whistle coffeepot, dead trees leaning against each other, train, footsteps in snow, crows, rain’ but also acoustic guitar feedback, tapeloops of found sounds, pitch regulated viola, B&K Sine Random Generator Type 1204, virtual Hammond Organ and such like. The titles of his pieces do not give away much either: ‘Gravity Station’, ‘Phase And Amplitude’, ‘Scientia’, ‘Virtual Resistance’, ‘Meter Reading’, ‘Into Its Coloured Rays’, ‘Gradient’ and the title piece. If necessary at all, one could consider Nilsen to be part of the crowded scene of people who create atmospheric, drone based music through all sorts of means, but at the end of the chain there is always the computer: all pieces list ‘various DSP’ at the end. That renders some of the sounds, if not all, beyond recognition. As said this music is highly atmospheric and finds its origin in drone music. This is a fine disc, don’t get me wrong. There is some excellent music on here, that is at times more daring then the usual ‘field recordings and drone music’, with some nasty frequencies here and there, and some sudden changes.

That is what sets BJNilsen apart from many of his peers. But somehow I also had the impression that ‘heard it already’ is also part of this. It seems to me that BJNilsen created some fine work which is already in his line of work, rather than making the next move. That perhaps is the only downside to this release. If you are not familiar with his work, then this is good release to get to know his work, and perhaps if you can never get enough, then this will prove no disappointment either. An absolutely great disc. [FdW]

Spinner (Spain):

Touch, una de las discográficas más exquisitas al mismo tiempo que atrevidas y fiables (publican poco pero siempre mantienen el listón de calidad bien alto) de todas las que puedes llevarte a casa, estrena el año con ‘The Invisible City’. El nuevo largo de, apenas cumplidos los 35, uno de los compositores experimentales (por la rama ambiental) más prolíficos de nuestro tiempo. Él es BJ Nilsen: denle la bienvenida a su hogar.

El sueco, antes -cuando su leitmotiv artístico consistía casi exclusivamente en jugar con loops de cinta- conocido como Hazard, cuenta con ocho discos -nueve si contamos éste que hoy comentamos; casi todos ellos en Touch Records- bajo la abreviatura de su propio nombre de pila (BJ no quiere decir otra cosa que Benny Jonas) en lo que ha durado el último lustro.

Su trayectoria, en todo caso, se remonta a comienzos de los noventa cuando con 15 añitos publicó su primera referencia; siendo a mediados de la siguiente década cuando definitivamente fija su atención “en los sonidos de la naturaleza y su efecto sobre los humanos”, tal y como reza en su página web. Pese a lo intrincada que pueda parecer su propuesta, los resultados de dicho esfuerzo han sido utilizados tanto para rellenar CDs como para sonorizar documentales, cortinillas televisivas e incluso anuncios.

‘The Invisible City’, a publicar el próximo 19 de enero, llega tras el estupendo ‘The Short Night’ (Touch, 07) si atendemos en exclusiva a su relación con el sello inglés (entre medias quedan un par de cositas para The Helen Scarsdale Agency y Editions Mego). Son ocho canciones grabadas en Berlín para poco más de una hora de música que, considerando los medios utilizados, no hace sino incidir en lo que ha sido su más reciente corpus de trabajo.

Aquel fruto de una mezcolanza de instrumentos vintage tocados por el propio Nilsen (órgano, guitarras acústicas, hasta un subharchord; la viola es cosa de nuestra querida Hildur Gudnadóttir) y sonidos ambientales grabados in situ (lo que se conoce como grabaciones de campo, en este caso realizadas en países como Suecia, Islandia, Noruega, el Reino Unido, Japón, Portugal o Alemania) y luego modificados y ensamblados a través de un ordenador y el uso de cintas.

Además, si te haces con su versión en compacto (también está disponible para descarga) te llevas gratis a casa media hora de música en directo a cargo de BJ Nilsen: la que sonó en el Cafe Oto de Londres el pasado mes de diciembre con motivo del ciclo ‘Atmospheres 3’. [Zigor Cavero]

kindamuzik (Belgium):

Het geluid van de natuur en de effecten ervan op mensen, de perceptie van tijd en ruimte zoals die via muziek ervaren kan worden, en dit in een elektronisch jasje: deze abstracte omschrijving vormt al jaren de leidraad in de muzikale zoektocht van de Zweed Benny Jonas Nilsen.

Meer dan tien albums heeft BJ Nilsen als soloartiest op zijn naam staan en de laatste vijf kwamen steevast uit op het Britse label Touch, dat al een hele reputatie opgebouwd heeft als forum voor allerhande gewaagde geluidsexperimenten. Soundscapes staan vaak centraal, het belangrijkste onderdeel van BJ Nilsens geluid.

De minimale composities op The Invisible City zijn complex samengesteld. Geluidsopnames uit Zweden, IJsland, Noorwegen, Groot-Brittannië, Japan, Portugal en Duitsland worden gecombineerd met een arsenaal aan uiteenlopende instrumenten. Alles wordt door BJ Nilsen georkestreerd en Hildur Gudnadottir, die vorig jaar nog het onvolprezen Without Sinking afleverde, snelt op viola te hulp.

Minutieus vormgegeven impulsen volgen elkaar op en details gaan organisch in elkaar over, zodat er telkens een intense muzikale textuur ontstaat, perfect om geestelijk in te verdwalen. BJ Nilsens scheppingskracht wordt gekenmerkt door variatie, wat ervoor zorgt dat de onzichtbare stad zich in acht bewegingen uitstrekt en haar geheimen prijsgeeft: het resultaat van de subtiele aanpak van een intrigerend geluidskunstenaar. [Hans van der Linden]

Dark Entries (Belgium):

Reeds (checking) 28 jaar is Touch Music bezig met het uitbrengen van commercieel niet voor de hand liggende muziek.The Hafler Trio, Strafe für Rebellion, Z’ev, Evan Parker, Christian Fennez, Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson en Jana Winderen zijn zo al van die artiesten die ondertekende in het verleden Touchgewijs leerde waarderen. Na Oren Ambarchi vorig jaar komt nu ook BJ Nilsen het lijstje vervolledigen. De man heeft in het verleden al heel wat uitgegeven, maar -toegegeven- we zijn hier niet altijd van op de hoogte gebleven.
Wat de man op deze The Invisible City presteert is bijna buitenissig te noemen. Naast gitaren,orgel en viola (gespeeld door Hildur Gudnàdottir) stoeit de man ook met de geluiden van onder andere vogelzang, straalvliegtuigen, versterkte stoel, koffiepot, bijen, wespen en zelfs ‘tegen elkaar leunende bomen’… Het resultaat is dan ook cinéma voor de oortjes. vooral het lange Virtual Resistance en het bijna sacrale Gradient. Hiermee heeft hij ondertekende volledig mee. Dit is zeker geen gemakkelijke plaat om naar te luisteren, maar wie de moeite neemt wordt zeker beloond.

WIRE stelde ooit: “Touch releases force you to listen harder…” en zo is het maar net.
8/10

Aquarius Records (USA):

It could be a coin toss as to who’s our favorite recording artist on Touch. Christian Fennesz, Phillip Jeck, and Chris Watson are all impeccable musicians working for the legendary label; but BJ Nilsen is the one artist who may be lurking beneath the radar a bit and has NEVER failed to deliver a great record. His work has always been focused on the drone, beginning back in his earlier sample heavy orchestrations as Morthound through Cold Meat Industries and onto his recordings as Hazard through the Touch imprint Ash International. Throughout his career, he’s often tapped into the psychic and physical cold of his native Swedish landscape. That was definitely the case for his North album as Hazard and the three alcoholically bent records made in collaboration with Stilluppsteypa for Helen Scarsdale; and it’s certainly true for The Invisible City.

A shimmering glow from an aggregate of rasping frequencies opens the album, sounding almost like a chorus of poorly grounded street lights offering their sustained, post-Ligeti plainsong to vacant streets on some cold wintery morning in Oslo. After some exploratory field recordings of bees and sympathetic atmospherics, Nilsen snaps into a frozen blur of softened distortion (e.g. Machinefabriek, Fennesz, and Lawrence English) laced with half-melodic phrases and shortwave transmissions echoing like distant ghosts on “Virtual Resistance.” It’s a signature move for Nilsen, and it’s one that he’s masterfully executed. Another great Nilsen strategy: his phased loops with theatrically brooding ambience and tactile field recordings, reappears on that same track which morphs into a shadowy post-apocalyptic smear somewhere between Deathprod and Barn Owl. Digital errata suspended in darkened rooms, barren windswept tones, and haunted field recordings dominate The Invisible City, which stands as another monumental achievement for BJ Nilsen.

Other Music (USA):

BJ Nilsen has always been a favorite Touch operative of mine, and this latest full-length is an apt distillation of his sound to date. His last record, The Short Night, pulled into focus his amazing lightness of touch, as he carefully sculpted haunted field recordings and layered icy-cold monosynth. The results were ineffably affecting, and The Invisible City poises itself as the logical extension of those themes. Here the environmental recordings are pushed still further into the background, cloaked in dusty, buzzing synthesizers and malfunctioning oscillators. The drones that gradually trickled to life on its predecessor form the backbone of the album, giving it a doomed register Sunn O))) fans will no doubt be drawn to. When the guitar feedback drones of “Gravity Station” morph into machine noise and binary chatter there can be no doubt of the spine chilling potential of the record, and its ability to incite fear and awe from the listener. Thankfully, Nilsen calms his arsenal for the central section of the album, slipping into a gaseous ambient haze (helped by fellow Touchy Hildur Gudnadottir) which never totally disappears, fading into the album’s second half like the ghost of Florian Fricke. There is something crucially human about Nilsen’s productions; whether this comes from his use of the sounds around him or from his defiant compositional touch I am not sure, but it serves to make his albums incredibly listenable. Those who think ambient experimental is all horn-rimmed glasses and studied theories… well you’re half right – but try not to forget about the humanity in it all. [JT]

Boomkat (UK):

Exceptional new album from BJ Nilsen featuring the sublime Viola contributions of Hildur Gudnadottir and made with the aid of Tape Recorders, Computer, Organ, Acoustic Guitar, Electronics, Viola, Subharchord and field recordings from Sweden, Iceland, Norway, UK, Japan, Portugal and Germany* Celebrated sound artist BJ Nilsen’s last album ‘The Short Night’ was an endlessly rich and rewarding album, one that’s really grown in stature ever since its release a couple of years back, so we’ve been eagerly awaiting this brand new album – “The Invisible City”. Recorded in Berlin, the album explores the potential of one of the very earliest synthesizers, the Subharchord stationed at Berlin’s Udk, a relic of former GDR engineering developed to explore subharmonic sound. Nilsen uses these sources and many others to weave complex, anachronistic and challenging narratives which never fail to immerse you into his world, exploring physical and psychogeographic relationships between sounds, whether savouring the crunch of snow underfoot or juxtaposing sheer scales of sound both artifical and supra-natural with a riveting unpredictability. Fast becoming one of our favourite artists on the always-compelling Touch imprint, Nilsen has once again delivered an album that’s both fearlessly dark, almost unnervingly so, and yet somehow inherently tender, letting in rare shafts of light through its tight-woven web of gloom. Very highly Recommended.

Norman Records (UK):

The news of a new BJ Nilsen album coming out had me anxious. I must admit that I got into this Swedish sound artist quite late on, but better late than never as they say. His latest album for Touch ‘The Invisible City’ has arrived and what a thoroughly absorbing listening experience it is. The use of field recordings, concrete techniques, DSP and electronic treatments really build an otherworldly environment that’s exceptionally vivid, which (at various moments) has a delicious sense of impending doom and at others an almost spiritually uplifting (for me anyway) vibe. The range of instruments and source material used here is exceptionally imaginative: tapes, guitar, piano, glockenspiel, chairs dragging across floors, coffee pots whistling, the list is endless etc… Within my headphones I can really just lose myself here for eternity and forget the outside world exists, but then the CD ends and I’m compelled to hit play again. I shall certainly be whacking this onto my iPod for a late night stroll around the city when no soul is around and imagining an alternative reality. I can see it now, Greggs the bakers, drunks stumbling about trying to beg fags, good and bad architecture, the bright lights, the bus journey home and my own secret audio.

Blow Up (Italy):

The Silent Ballet (USA):

Score: 7.5/10
A glance at what may best be described as the instrument list for BJ Nilsen’s new album suggests that The Invisible City may be couched in the sounds of the countryside. The inclusion of ‘bumblebees’ on “Phase and Amplitude,” ‘dead trees leaning against each other’ and crows on “Into its Coloured Rays,” and simply ‘rain’ on the title track suggest that Nilsen might be creating a work bathed in aural imagery of a bucolic idyll. However, this circumstantial evidence is swiftly disproved in the actual listening, and a closer inspection of the track notes is required. There is ‘birdsong’ on “Scientia,” for example, but it is ‘feed-backed and overdriven’ through a B&K Frequency Analyser Type 2107. This is not a rural excursion, and, friends, The Invisible City is no picnic.

Those listeners who luxuriated in the soft, billowy sounds of Nilsen’s 2007 work, The Short Nigh,t will be stopped short by the prickly, angular noises from his new opus. Opening track “Gravity Station” creeps in softly, starting with silence and then gently cranking up the volume and intensity. This track, along with several others, sees Nilsen utilizing the subhachord, which was invented in East Germany in the 1960s and then lost for decades until its rediscovery ten years ago. The instrument produces subharmonics and was often used in soundtracks, presumably to produce sounds that caught the audience off-guard, as these are not ‘natural’ noises – that is, these are sounds that do not occur in nature and can only exist through human input, whether through an engineer’s inventiveness or a composer’s ingenuity.

This integration of ‘unnatural’ sounds, along with the heavily processed field recordings, results in a work that crackles with the static of modern life. A decent chunk of the planet – and, let’s face it, everyone who comes into contact with this album – is reliant on electricity and it is that force which is the focal point of The Invisible City. The result is something of an uncomfortable experience, as there are moments when the album is harsh and grating – and purposefully so. Urban life revolves around this hidden force whether it be the underground rail network, traffic lights, or our offices and homes, and electricity is alluded to in several titles, most notably “Meter Reading,” a banal but vital part of our lives (providing we don’t want to be cut off).

Nilsen’s works up to now have often been impressionistic pieces built around nature – Fade To White built from a single flake to a snowstorm, The Short Night utilized the sea and the shipping forecast – but The Invisible City’s concept is more urban and less easily defined. There are moments of squally intensity but also longer tracks which patiently map out their space, such as “Gradient,” in which a ‘virtual Hammond organ’ slowly builds around a loop, and “Virtual Resistance,” which settles down over a solitary guitar chord, a circulating viola (courtesy of Hildur Gudnadóttir), and an oscillating wave pattern. It is these longer pieces that provide the most depth and satisfaction, as Nilsen himself seems happier with operating over extended lengths (for example, the half-hour contributions to the Spire series or the recordings of his live sets).

It is the three minutes of the title track that provides a perfect conclusion to The Invisible City, however, with an ‘amplified chair dragged across floor’ giving way to a gorgeous tone with what could be slowed-down rainfall providing added depth. The impurities and angular shapes of the previous tracks are washed away in what is an all too brief piece. It is almost like a cleansing ritual at the end of an album which, whilst being heavy on the atmosphere and aural scope, is not necessarily something that demands repeated listening. It might be recommended for headphone listening were it not for the side-effect that makes the listener feel like he has a head full of static electricity by the end (a similar state of affairs to some of Ryoji Ikeda’s work). So, the result is an album that falls short of Nilsen’s previous work, and a work that will provide more of a challenge to the listener than one might expect; nevertheless, there is plenty here to get to grips with even if the listener feels he has gone ten rounds with a Van Der Graaff Generator by the end. [Jeremy Bye]

GP (Sweden):

Med huvudkvarter i Berlin tar sig svenske BJ Nilsen runtom i världen med inspelningsutrustning, instrument och ett skarpt sinne för detaljer. Få är lika bra på att förena miljöljud (på nya skivan alltifrån humlor, fåglar och träd till tåg och kaffekanna) och suggestiv musik. Lyssna med hörlurar och förundras av alla skikt som går in i varandra på de åtta låtarna. Det kan vara fotsteg i snö, mystiska orgelslingor eller en skrikande gitarr som sugs in i intet. Musik lika tät som vidöppen, helt naturligt att Nilsen delar skivbolag med Chris Watson, Philip Jeck och Fennesz.
[PM Jönsson]

Onda Rock (Italy):

Artista da tempo impegnato in una ricerca musicale “concreta”, incentrata su filtraggi elettronici ed environmental sounds, lo svedese Benny Jonas Nilsen ha alle spalle tante diverse esperienze e collaborazioni, tra le quali meritano una menzione almeno quelle con Chris Watson e con il duo islandese Stilluppsteypa. Nilsen vanta tuttavia anche una significativa attività solista, giunta adesso al terzo album a lui esclusivamente accreditato, sempre per i tipi della lungimirante Touch, etichetta che accanto ai “mostri sacri” Philip Jeck e Christian Fennesz non cessa di proporre produzioni di valore negli impervi territori dell’ambient music più sperimentale.

Al generico inquadramento definitorio non sfugge l’ora abbondante di musica racchiusa in “The Invisible City”, lavoro le cui atmosfere traducono in una coltre sonora di spoglia alienazione l’evanescente relazione tra natura e civiltà umana. La città invisibile del compositore svedese (che concettualmente riecheggia, seppure in termini ben più spettrali, la “Quiet City” di Pan American), più che qualcosa di inafferrabile attraverso i sensi, descrive infatti un non-luogo nel quale suoni dalle origini più disparate si incontrano, fondendosi tra loro in combinazioni discontinue, uniformate soltanto da uno spesso manto di drone, pervasivo ma niente affatto ottundente.

Se infatti la resa complessiva del lavoro appare quella di un ipnotismo minimale, incessante è la ricerca condotta da Nielsen su suoni organici e field recordings, giustapposti a costituire gli elementi essenziali di un difficile dialogo tra i mondi in apparenza non comunicanti della natura, della tecnologia e degli strumenti propriamente detti. Emblematico dell’ambiziosa intersezione di piani operata da Nilsen è già l’elenco delle fonti sonore impiegate nel corso dell’album, al cui interno insetti, versi di uccelli, porte sbattute, strusciare di sedie e fischi di caffettiera trovano pari dignità di chitarre, pianoforte, organo e viola (suonata dall’ottima Hildur Gu?nadottir), oltre che di una lunga serie di supporti elettronici virtuali e reali, tra i quali ricorre in quasi tutti i brani un pezzo di modernariato socialista quale il subharchord.

Lo svolgersi dell’iniziale “Gravity Station”, tra inquietudini di terre immerse nella nebbia e ovattati crepitii sinistri, si declina secondo il miglior verbo di un’ambient spettrale e orrifica, perfetta cornice di foreste nordiche imprigionate nel gelo. E laddove “Scientia”, in bilico tra l’Alva Noto glitch-addicted e quello più rilassato del capitolo “Xerrox Vol. 2”, propone una distesa cupa e dai tratti gotici, la reiterazione portata ai massimi estremi rappresenta l’architettura concettuale dei quindici minuti di “Virtual Resistence”. Se la prima metà dell’opera avanza lentamente, articolandosi su trame isolazioniste, a partire da “Meter Reading” le nubi perdono gradualmente il loro grigiore uniforme: il liquido amniotico in lieve fibrillazione di “Into Its Coloured Rays” agita abissi sotterranei, schiudendo la sua placida melodia nell’inno ambientale “Gradient”, gioiello di silenziosa maestosità, le cui maglie, dapprima strettissime, lasciano poi filtrare raggi luminosi nella title track, che si perdono in un muro dronico dai tratti ascendenti come nel miglior Fennesz.

Ne risulta una costellazione di inquiete sinfonie ambientali, la cui profondità è solcata in continuazione da inserti acustici e rumori ambientali che ne accentuano la tensione, rendendone sempre mutevoli gli sviluppi, in uno spaccato di isolazionismo post-industriale densissimo di suggestioni e percorso da una capacità comunicativa davvero rara. 7/10 [Raffaello Russo, Alberto Asquini]

Armchair Dancefloor (UK):

There is already a tension present when engaging with any new BJ Nilsen recording, so adept is the Swede at confusing the line between what’s ‘real’ and what’s synthetic. He might list ‘chair dragged across floor’, ‘wasps run through B&K Type 2 2107’ and ‘cat climbing up door’ in the detailed lists of instrumentation accompanying each track, as well as more conventional entries like ‘acoustic guitar’ and ‘Hammond organ’, but after a few hours spent wandering The Invisible City you get the distinct impression that it’s the ‘various DSP’ (digital signal processes) – the one entry that recurs beside every track – that are the most important elements here.

Nilsen is a masterful composer, albeit one who generates knotty, abstruse work that requires time and patience to unlock. Spend time with it, though, and tracks that at first appeared impenetrable or relatively featureless, such as the long drone opener Gravity Station, slowly come to reveal their complex and even enchanting inner workings. No such labour is necessary to reveal the beauty of ‘Gradient’s slow, majestic ascent and its adjunct ‘The Invisible City’, however: they lie at the end of this mysterious, challenging journey like glimmering rewards. [Chris Power]

Svenska Dagbladet (Sweden):

Sonic Seducer (Germany):

Rockerilla (Italy):

Tinymixtapes (USA):

Swedish musician BJ Nilsen has a well-deserved reputation as one of the preeminent sound artists operating today. His standard procedure consists of electronically-treating field recordings — often of animals and natural environments — and combining them with traditional instruments that are usually rendered unrecognizable. You’re never sure what exactly you’re hearing when listening to a Nilsen album. While knowing his methods is in no way a prerequisite to enjoying his music, you’ll probably hear his albums differently once you know how they’re constructed.

The Invisible City consists of eight soundscapes that hover somewhere between the relative clean sounds of Oren Ambarchi and the noisier sides of Pita or Fennesz. The typical track has a solid, rarely wavering drone as its base, with sounds layered on as the piece progresses. At times, it sounds like Nilsen is improvising in real time on top of carefully constructed tracks, as sounds weave in and out of the mix. This approach works best in longer durations: while some of the shorter tracks are cut off before they truly get interesting, there are three 10-minute-plus tracks here that take full advantage of the length.

It all makes for an intense listen that draws you in, but the pieces take on yet another dimension when you read the liner notes. In addition to stringed instruments like guitars and violas, Nilsen uses a heap of electronic equipment of apparently vintage or analogue make. He also lists something called a “virtual Hammond organ,” which sounds remarkably similar to a real one but with a slightly queasy sheen to it. Then, of course, there are the field recordings he’s most known for, including everything from bumblebees buzzing around and cats walking across a floor to footsteps on snow and an amplified chair dragged across the floor.

Despite all the differing sounds, the album retains a consistent tone throughout, yet this also works against it. At over an hour, more variety would have been welcome; it’s easy for The Invisible City to slip into the background, warm and dozy, until a loud tonal burst comes along to shake you up. And while it’s surprisingly uncluttered given the amount of components listed for each track, you’ll have to strain hard to discern any of it from the austere mix. It’s an album that clearly needs attentive ears, but if you’re listening without knowing of the ‘instrumentation’ or Nielsen’s m.o., you’d never guess what lay hidden in these tracks — and even if you know what’s there, I’m pretty sure you’ll be hard pressed to isolate the sound of “dead trees leaning against each other.”

Headphone Commute:

I have to admit that I’m mildly surprised by where my musical preferences are taking me these days. Until recently, I didn’t really have much patience for drone and noise music. I found it intriguing but I couldn’t really wrap my head around it. Now I find myself increasingly gravitating toward these more abstract forms of music, especially if they incorporate field recordings. There’s something primordial about this music, as if it allows you to engage with some elementary force deep within.

The sharp edges that I used to find grating are now so deeply satisfying. Am I hearing it differently? I don’t know. But I do know that for me, listening to music like B.J. Nilsen’s seems to slow the passage of time. Gradually, the sounds combine to build a scene that remains constant over an extended period of time, giving you the time to peel away the surface and submerge yourself in the substance beneath. It really focuses the mind. It’s what I imagine meditation must be like.

B.J. Nilsen is one of the shining lights of the treasured Touch label roster and a luminary of electronic drones and field recordings. I just recently discovered his stunning last album, The Short Night (Touch, 2006), and his latest, The Invisible City, is another high water mark. Nilsen has traveled as far afield as Japan and Portugal for the source material for his field recordings and the track notes provide fascinating insight into the building blocks of Nilsen’s compositions. Along with the electronics, acoustic instruments (Hildur Gudnaudottir makes another appearance on [pitch-regulated] viola) and processors he uses, Nilsen lists the recorded sound sources.

And so, “amplified chair dragged across floor”, “window shutters”, “steel whistle coffeepot” and “birdsong” place their indelible mark on the opening track Gravity Station. A few minutes in, underneath a steady thick metallic drone and the hum of vibrating electrical lines, you can just barely make out what sounds like the weaving tones of a Middle Eastern flute – something you might hear off in the distance in a busy sun-drenched Arabian market. Or is it my imagination? Then, halfway through the almost 17 minute track, the chair and shutters lurch loudly and rudely across the sound field, heralding a rather menacing and doom-laden finale. A frantic chorus of birdsong whips things into a frenzy before the end comes with desperate bursts of twisted noise.

What does it all mean? I don’t know. But on the whole, Nilsen’s sound sculptures – which seems to me a more fitting description than “music” – are ominous. If they are indeed a representation of some aspect of city life, then it must be of an urban underbelly. Of dark things that lurk underneath the surface, like the high-pitched static squeals in Scientia that recall rats scurrying around the sewers beneath our cities. But more than anything, the music evokes industry and technology, from churning motors and machinery grinding to a halt in Phase and Amplitude to a burst of a fax transmission at the beginning of Virtual Resistance. Digital data snaking its way through the invisible passageways that lie behind the walls of our constructions.

The ironic thing is that many of the field recordings originate in nature. Bumblebees, wasps, birdsong, flapping wings, crows, rain, footsteps on snow, “dead trees leaning against each other”. But they are usually manipulated and processed to such an extent that they are unrecognizable. Nevertheless, they bring life, depth and movement to a cold and hard backdrop constructed of wires and steel. And together these elements form remarkable sound sculptures that will undoubtedly stand the test of time.

ae (Germany):

— MONATSEMPFEHLUNG DER REDAKTION —

BJ Nilsen, zuletzt mit den Isländern Stilluppsteypa auf Helen Scarsdale unterwegs, ist ein recht umtriebiger Musiker, dessen Output ebenso lange zeitliche Fäden zieht wie Feldrekorderveteran Francisco López. Die Entscheidung, »The Invisible City« auf Touch zu verlegen, dürfte dabei nicht von ungefähr gekommen sein, vereint das subtile Album mit dem geschmackvollen Nachtportraits der Metropole (Jon Wozencroft!) doch alles, was ein solides Dronealbum benötigt. Das Nilsen dabei die verwendeten Klänge auflistet, wäre nicht nötig gewissen, denn existent ist vom verwendeten Material eh nur die Schnittmenge, welche sich in den Gesamtmix einzugliedern vermag.

»The Invisible City« ist erstaunlich warm und druckvoll, die Subtilität gerade beim Hören durch Kopfhörer umwerfend. Die Feldaufnahmen mutieren zu generativ verzahnten Dronescapes, eingeschlossen in industrielle Klangversprengungen und Sala’sche Vogelschwärme (»Gravity Station«). Die durchweg langen Stücke bricht Nilsen dabei mittels kurzer Zwischentöne auf, das Gefüge gerät beim längeren Hören mehr und mehr in Lovecraft’sche Gefilde. Die beunruhigenden Klavierintervalle von »Phase And Amplitude« vermengen sich mit dem Röhren einzelner Rasenmähermotoren, während das hochfrequente »Scientia« sonische Entwicklungen gerade geschlüpfter Vogeljungtiere simuliert. Auf »Virtual Resistance« beleuchtet Nilsen leerstehende Flughäfen bei Nacht, angereichert mit dunstiger Gitarrenwand und selektiv eingestreuten Noiseintervallen. Egal wo sie liegen mag, die unsichtbare Stadt, in BJ Nilsens Musik wird sie klangliche greifbare Realität und das besondere daran ist letztlich, dass dieser Ort überall sein kann. Da wundert es auch nicht, dass der namensgebende Album-Endpunkt ethnische Klangentwicklungen a la Enigma aufsucht. Groß. 5/5

de:bug (Germany):

Tokafi (USA):

The first thing you’ll hear is an insisting and steadily humming drone rising from the void, soon joined by growing clouds of higher-pitched moving tones. The drone remains immobile for ten minutes, continually creating natural overtone harmonics—you’re left in the dark about whether these are actually inside the music or tinnitus-related—reproducing some kind of Doppler-effect for the pleasure of your ears. Welcome to ‘Gravity Station’, the first disconcerting track of BJ Nilsen’s new album. This could be the music of a rusty carousel rotating faraway in a hidden spooky world. Sturdy things finally bustle about the fixed tone and make it disappear, letting abstract bricks of dark sound knock together loudly with electric waves in the background. Now, you are jacked in.

The second half of the album is way more relaxed yet occasionally pretty eerie. It often sounds like a still life—but even the layers of the most quiet track here will entwine each other, or the introduction of a bizarre sample will suddenly bend your mind to follow another path. Everything flows, especially when an organ unfold its Terry Riley-like texture. You listen to the music here as you would process some half-developed photographic paper, slowly showing moving forms, some iridescent and lazy, some other glitchy and alert. Speaking of photography, sometimes you wish you could have paid attention to Jon Wozencroft’s cover photograph only after listening to the music. How much does the artwork condition the listener to react to the recording accordingly? How much of this review is involuntarily inspired from the picture of a train station, seen at night from above as a vector of light, as an airstrip? No matter how gorgeous and evocative Touch’s design is, I must confess that I often tried to imagine what kind of effects an unexpected cover, for instance with people on it (a rare thing at Touch as far as I am aware), might evoke.

Throughout the album, BJ Nilsen shapes noises chosen for their power to drive you further through the ‘Invisible City’, which is not the safest place on… whatever planet we are on. Unsurprisingly, field recordings are the raw material here, treated electronically with the delicate know-how of a goldsmith manipulating the king of metals. The material list in the liner notes, partly a bestiary, reveals trade secrets: sounds of flying insects, birds and wing flaps, or of a ‘cat clibing up door’ are sampled on some loops, producing rhythm or becoming musical patterns. But that city is no animal/vegetal paradise at all, most of the time the samples are part of larger technological designs, soundscapes from outer space or under sea level. Alongside the field recordings, you may recognize Hildur Gudnadottir’s viola, vintage synthesizers, a guitar, a piano, a ‘virtual Hammond organ’ and many other instruments. You can hear footsteps on snow and squawking birds, humming machines and transmission signals, even the digitalized scream of a wild beast (in fact an ‘amplified chair dragged across floor’). Is it a concept album about the cohabitation of creatures of nature and man-made technology?

The way these field recordings are integrated in a globally non-human atmosphere touches on mastery, but I don’t think there is a unified concept at all. The album is rather similar to a portmanteau film containing sketches of various parts of the unmapped city. Listen carefully and don’t let the appearance fool you, the album seems to whisper, ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’ are just words invented to make you naively believe in such an easy duality: a city is as natural and artificial as a hive. [Antoine Richard]

Sound of Music (Sweden):

En av Sveriges säkraste ljudfantomer är tillbaka med sitt mest genomarbetade album någonsin. BJ Nilsens The Invisible City är både smärtsamt jobbig och vacker.
Av de skivor som svenska skivbolaget Cold Meat Industry gav ut under nittiotalet står Morthonds/Morthounds This Crying Age och Spindrift ut. Visst har de tappat sin dåtida charm något, men ljudbehandlingen förlåter en del tribala och industriella utsvävningar. Redan där kunde man ana att BJ Nilsen en dag skulle göra så avancerade och mångfacetterade skivor som The Invisible City.

Sedan några år tillbaka har han som bekant övergivit sina tidigare alias och hittat en fast punkt på bolaget Touch. Chris Watson-samarbetet Storm, liksom albumen Fade To White och The Short Night har varit centrerade kring naturens påverkan på människan. Där tar förvisso The Invisible City vid. Men det är faktiskt inte bara i titeln som BJ Nilsens nya album känns mer urban än sina föregångare. För även om skivans field recordings rymmer både humlor, fågelsång och getingar känns detta mer som en skiva inspirerad av staden.

Nu har BJ Nilsen aldrig varit någon skogsmulle. Hans field recordings har alltid bearbetats hårt, tills ljuden knappt känns igen – och så är det även här. Dessutom innehåller varje stycke så många lager att en mindre begåvad ljudartist hade gått bort sig och skapat en kakafoni. Men inte Nilsen. Försiktigt skapar han storslagna symfonier av de vardagligaste ljud.

Ibland gör de fysiskt ont. Inledande “Gravity Station” är ett nervpirrande, påfrestande och nästintill outhärdligt störande stycke stillastående frekvens. Ända till det förlöses genom rassel gjort av stolar som BJ Nilsen dragit över ett golv, spelat in och bearbetat.

Andra stycken är lika stillastående, men mer harmoniska och lugnande. “Into It´s Coloured Rays” är ett bra exempel där de långsamt växande ljudmassorna sköljer över med en smeksam inställning.

Totalt är dock The Invisible City en skiva att älska. Det är inte ofta de tio första minutrarna på ett album får mig totalt allergisk, men utan att det är dåligt, snarare att jag fysiskt mår dåligt av ljudet – och som sedan övergår i vackra ljudskapelser som får mig att trycka repeat om och om igen. [Mats Almegård]

GMD (France):

Dans la grande constellation des musiques électroniques risquées, un label joue encore et toujours les patrons : Touch où l’équipe anglaise qui incarne mieux que tout autre (à l’instar de Editions Mego) cette fascination pour la sculpture sonore et l’implication presque scientifique de la musique électronique. Si Mika Vainio, Biosphere ou Fennesz sont connus comme des porte-drapeaux dans des sphères sociales moins intime, BJ Nilsen incarne à lui seul toute l’arrière-garde du label, fidèle au poste bien que moins médiatisé que ses partenaires suscités. Pourtant il y a de quoi saluer le travail du géant suédois, et The Invisible City est la nouvelle preuve de cette patte précise et unique.
Autant le dire tout de suite, parcourir la cité invisible de BJ Nilsen est une épopée d’une intensité troublante : vous marcherez seul, vous ne croiserez dans ces ruelles que des souffles, des relectures fantomatiques du monde commun et des hypothèses baroques au limites de la matérialité. Si un mot devait qualifier ce voyage initiatique, ce serait bien « troublant ». Troublant tout d’abord car si notre électronicien oscille entre ambient contemporaine (comprenez par là des drones déshumanisés), allures légèrement noisy et articulations de field recording, rien ici ne provoque l’effet escompté, du moins jamais là où on l’attend. Et si les premières écoutes sont nécessaires pour réellement convaincre, petit à petit les pions se placent sur l’échiquier, se rappelant à l’esprit de l’auditeur comme des sentiments de déjà-vu. On reconnaîtra au fil des passages certains éboulis laissés là par des civilisations anciennes, des surtensions électriques continues et des panneaux signalétiques à ne surtout pas respecter. Succession d’images et de plans larges, The Invisble City est un exercice de zoom avant et arrière, comme un oeil qui cherche en permanence la bonne appréciation de son objet, du plus concentré au plus étendu.

Mais troublant également de par la poésie des matériaux. Car aux côtés des éternelles guitares électriques préparées et des synthétiseurs atones, BJ Nilsen fait muter des field recordings aussi nombreux que cocasses : oiseaux, arbres morts couchés les uns sur les autres, pas dans la neige, chaise grinçant sur le sol ou chat grimpant à la porte. Le but n’étant pas de transposer la ferme à la maison, ces sources sont avant tout la preuve, après dématérialisation, que La Cité Invisible sous-tend un microcosme tout ce qu’il y a de plus organique. Une forme de vie aurait donc existé, à quelque époque que ce soit, sur cette terre devenue peu fertile aujourd’hui. Peut-être que des commerces y prospéraient, que la douce monotonie du temps était entrecoupée de quelques « bonjour » ou « comment vont tes enfants? ». Peut-être oui, mais ce temps là est bel et bien révolu, tout au plus restent sur les murs des traces invisibles de ce qui fut autrefois, à l’état d’incertitudes sensorielles. Alors on jouit de contempler les tours, le verre brisé et les murs décrépis dans une sorte de parcours libre qui joue tant sur les aspects mentaux que matériels.

The Invisible City est une machine à vous évoquer des choses qui n’existent pas, que vous ne voyez peut-être pas : une inexplicable faille entre l’esprit et le corps où tout est possible, et rien à la fois. Je vous conseille ardemment ce disque car il est une merveille de musique contemporaine : autoritaire sans jamais forcer la main de son auditeur, paradoxalement codée et à la fois extrêmement libre. En somme, The Invisble City est une proposition de libertinage auditif orienté absolument essentielle. Il y a de la vie sur Mars, qu’on n’essaie plus de me faire croire le contraire. 8/10 [Simon]

Gonzo Circus (Belgium):

D-Side (France):

Electronique (Italy):

Lo Svedese Benny Jonas Nilsen ci regala l’ennesimo album per la Touch, e questa volta assembla una serie di field recordings registrati tra il 2008 ed il 2009 in svariati paesi del mondo. Un lavoro come al solito di cesello, limando fin quasi a far scomparire i vari suoni prodotti da strumenti quali organo, viola e chitarra acustica. Un estetica longilinea ed ipnotica che entra nella pelle facendosi strato. La sua è voglia di raccontare questa città invisibile attraverso un lungo sguardo indagatore, una sonda lasciata libera di vagare nei vicoli, negli antri e nella desolazione.

Bj Nilsen è maestro in questo, compone musica d’ascolto suddividendo le suite in ampie sezioni pregne d’atmosfera, riempite man mano di elementi, registrazioni, suoni. Anche in questo album il silenzio prende vita, portando in superficie i tic meno percepibili di una città vissuta nella notte. Un soundtrack perfetto per i vostri sogni oscuri, che vi porterà a ragionare sul dettaglio, spingendo la vostra immaginazione verso luoghi che normalmente non avrete modo di “visitare”.

L’eccesso eliminato in ogni sua forma, rimane l’essenza delle cose, un vitale gorgoglìo alimentato da strumenti nobili e processato insieme a registrazioni naturali ed orpelli elettronici levigati. Un punto d’indagine che non trascura nulla, dai motori di automezzi allo scampanellio lontano di chissà quale fonte. La città offre spunti inverosimili se attraversata nella notte, tutto prende vita e forma diventando se così si può dire alieno ed alienante. Nella sua ciclica composta e multiforme, Bj Nilsen ci fa riscoprire il piacere dell’ascolto. [liquid]

Etherreal (France):

Alors que l’on était habitué à le voir proche de la nature, le Suédois BJ Nilsen nous revient plus de deux ans après son sublime The Short Night avec ce nouvel album dont le titre suggère des atmosphères plus urbaines.

The Invisible City reprend la construction de bon nombre des albums de BJ Nilsen, que ce soit sous son propre nom ou bien en tant que Hazard, avec une alternance de longs morceaux, de l’ordre du quart d’heure, et d’autres plus courts que l’on peut voir comme des focus, des zooms, que ce soit sur une façon de composer ou sur une portion d’une pièce plus longue.

Après l’apaisement ambiant de The Short Night, ce nouvel album peut surprendre, voire faire perdre quelques auditeurs au Suédois. Si la musique de BJ Nilsen reste globalement dans une veine ambient, on est bien loin de l’apaisement à l’écoute de Gravity Station qui ouvre l’album. Dominé par des drones lourds, sombres, fourmillant de piaillements électroniques stressants que l’on attribuera à des ondes radio, bruitages inquiétants, tintements et souffles anxiogènes, sans parler des textures crissantes qui clôturent ce premier passage, la ville de Nilsen est loin d’être de tout repos. A l’image de la pochette, photo nocturne d’un quai de gare au centre d’une ville illuminée, BJ Nilsen produit ici une musique d’apparence ambient (calme de la nuit) en mettant en avant des bruits que l’on ne perçoit pas ou plus qui font partie intégrante de la ville : ondes radios, réseau électrique, transports en commun.

Le maître du field recording se concentre ici sur le traitement sonore et trompe l’auditeur. La matière sonore n’a pas changé : oiseaux, pas dans la neige, bourdons, branchages qui s’entrechoquent, BJ Nilsen dessine sa ville avec des sons naturels, bien souvent méconnaissables, tout en intégrant parfois le sifflement d’une cafetière, le raclement d’une chaise sur le sol, le passage d’un train ou d’un avion. Il en découle un sentiment contrasté, alternant entre l’agressivité de riffs de guitare crissants à la Fennesz et des nappes ambient linéaires sur Virtual Resistance, jouant sur des sonorités arides avec lenteur pour les rendre presque agréables sur Gradient.

On notera enfin l’importance nouvelle de véritables instruments sur cet album, puisqu’en dehors du violoncelle de Hildur Gudnadóttir, le Suédois utilise ici orgues, guitares, piano et glockenspiel, le tout étant souvent difficilement identifiables…

Le changement dans la continuité serait-on tenté de dire, mais quel changement ! The Invisible City est un album riche, contrasté, mais aussi plus expérimental et plus difficile d’accès dans la mesure ou l’artiste casse ici l’image d’une ambient qui devrait être douce et agréable. 6/8 [Fabrice Allard]

Brain Dead Eternity (Blog):

A distinguished accumulator of field recordings and correlated studio treatments, BJ Nilsen creates music that fluctuates between ephemeral and material, not failing to maintain a vision of the world’s real traits that, in his soundscapes, never fail to elicit interest. The Invisible City – announced by Jon Wozencroft’s routinely impressive photographic cover artwork – is definitely one of the best exemplars of Nilsen’s sound art, a record that could be filed in different departments of a hypothetical archive without erring. Naturally, drones form the basis of most everything. Halfway through crudeness and mortality – touches of more typical instrumental timbres like Hammond organ and guitars wrapped by a veil of strange frequencies, altered animal emanations and processed fumes – this work hardly reveals its fairly indecipherable facets in settings that might be deemed as “static” only by extremely superficial ears.

The majority of the tracks seem to signify an ascension of sorts, from a near-degradation level towards a high pinnacle that, inexorably, remains just conceivable but is not actually reached. We wait for something serious to happen – an explosion of violence, a shaking of our confidence, a breaking of fossilized convictions – yet are left with a mere potential, the intuition of a bigger (and somewhat ominous) impending occurrence. This excludes any tendency to ambient innocuousness: the way in which the sonic events unfold, revealing luminous interstices amidst a general sense of bleakness, furnishes the listener’s mind with the idea of a scrupulous procedure whose results are evidently magnificent and, at worst, perplexingly attractive.

If a slight disapproval, so to speak, exists then it must be directed to the composer’s will of listing, in each piece, every single source from which the action derives. Sometimes it is better to leave judgments and (mostly) errors to the mind’s eye, capable of making apparently unrelated elements combine marvelously in a private merging of textural features and implied meanings. Ingested as such, this release offers lots of captivating perceptions to investigate, substantial gratification coming either from sheer contemplation or relatively uneasy involvement. [Massimo Ricci]

Le Son du Grisli (France):

La ville invisible de BJ Nilsen, c’est Berlin. Ou plutôt : la ville que BJ Nilsen a rendu invisible, c’est Berlin. Ou encoreŠ Ou arrêtons-là. Saluons quand même l’audace du Suédois Nilsen. C’est en effet Berlin qu’il cherche à rendre invisible. Pas Paris ! En d’autres termes : Nilsen refuse de donner dans la facilité.

En 2008 et 2009 à Berlin (donc), c’est avec la violoniste Hildur Gudnadottir que Nilsen réfléchissait à ses épreuves d’un urbanisme sonore original. Modifié, le son du violon s’entend avec les orgues, les guitares et les field recordings chers à Nilsen. Méconnaissables, tous ces éléments débordent ensuite des plans dessinés et l’architecture bizarre qui se met en place ne craint pas d’accueillir des aréopages de fantômes ou des armadas d’objets volants. La musique atmosphérique n’a jamais été aussi dé-concrétisée et, en conséquence, aussi surprenante.

Rumore (Italy):

Adverse Effect (Poland):

Eight cuts from the Swedish composer that were recorded and mixed in Berlin between 2008 and 2009 and once again adopt his proclivity for teasing a vast array of field recordings, sound sources and instruments into a series of obsidian textures, tones, shimmers and ringing sounds. Although mostly difficult to isolate the original recordings in what can only be described as a vast sea of gush that wavers heavily between being tranquil and occasionally invasive, every so often some submerged voices, trains or guitar, for example, make themselves discernible enough to steer the proceeedings away from being merely another drone-fest. Firm emphasis on movement and detail keeps The Invisible City far from becoming stale, whilst the very production itself pays witness to a sense of craft that usurps all similar-natured contenders I’ve personally stumbled on during recent times. Although the concept behind this album isn’t made entirely clear, what comes over is an album dedicated to either the nature or the very heart of a city, perhaps forever obscured by the objectives and lives of those who reside within. An idea itself that juxtaposes the extremely clear and concise manner of these recordings, yet never once belies the fact such contrasts and, indeed, contradictions are as much a part of a city’s core in the first instance.

Ultimately, this is a strong and very cleverly prepared album. The fact the compositions are noted as being derived from everything from field recordings (culled from Japan, Iceland, Portugal, UK and other countries) to organs, piano, feedback, tapeloops of found sounds, “amplified chair dragged across the floor”, and so on would seem perhaps meaningless were it not for Nilsen’s justified desire to cast light onto the mechanics of this chemistry.

A fantastic album, and a real triumph for this entire genre. [Richard Johnson]

Touch Extremes (France):

A distinguished accumulator of field recordings and correlated studio treatments, BJ Nilsen creates music that fluctuates between ephemeral and material, not failing to maintain a vision of the world’s real traits that, in his soundscapes, never cease to elicit interest. The Invisible City – announced by Jon Wozencroft’s routinely impressive photographic cover artwork – is definitely one of the best exemplars of Nilsen’s sound art, a record that could be filed in different departments of a hypothetical archive without erring. Naturally, drones form the basis of most everything. Halfway through crudeness and mortality – touches of more typical instrumental timbres like Hammond organ and guitars wrapped by a veil of strange frequencies, altered animal emanations and processed fumes – this work hardly reveals its fairly indecipherable facets in settings that might be deemed as “static” only by extremely superficial ears.

The majority of the tracks seem to signify an ascension of sorts, from a near-degradation level towards a high pinnacle that, inexorably, remains just conceivable but is not actually reached. We wait for something serious to happen – an explosion of violence, a shaking of our confidence, a breaking of fossilized convictions – yet are left with a mere potential, the intuition of a bigger (and somewhat ominous) impending occurrence. This excludes any tendency to ambient innocuousness: the way in which the sonic events unfold, revealing luminous interstices amidst a general sense of bleakness, furnishes the listener’s mind with the idea of a scrupulous procedure whose results are evidently magnificent and, at worst, perplexingly attractive.

If a slight disapproval, so to speak, exists then it must be directed to the composer’s will of listing, in each piece, every single source from which the action derives. Sometimes it is better to leave judgments and (mostly) errors to the mind’s eye, capable of making apparently unrelated elements combine marvelously in a private merging of textural features and implied meanings. Ingested as such, this release offers lots of captivating perceptions to investigate, substantial gratification coming either from sheer contemplation or relatively uneasy involvement. [Massimo Ricci]

Ritual (Italy):

Headphone Commute (USA):

I have to admit that I’m mildly surprised by where my musical preferences are taking me these days. Until recently, I didn’t really have much patience for drone and noise music. I found it intriguing but I couldn’t really wrap my head around it. Now I find myself increasingly gravitating toward these more abstract forms of music, especially if they incorporate field recordings. There’s something primordial about this music, as if it allows you to engage with some elementary force deep within.

The sharp edges that I used to find grating are now so deeply satisfying. Am I hearing it differently? I don’t know. But I do know that for me, listening to music like B.J. Nilsen’s seems to slow the passage of time. Gradually, the sounds combine to build a scene that remains constant over an extended period of time, giving you the time to peel away the surface and submerge yourself in the substance beneath. It really focuses the mind. It’s what I imagine meditation must be like.

B.J. Nilsen is one of the shining lights of the treasured Touch label roster and a luminary of electronic drones and field recordings. I just recently discovered his stunning last album, The Short Night (Touch, 2006), and his latest, The Invisible City, is another high water mark. Nilsen has traveled as far afield as Japan and Portugal for the source material for his field recordings and the track notes provide fascinating insight into the building blocks of Nilsen’s compositions. Along with the electronics, acoustic instruments (Hildur Gudnaudottir makes another appearance on [pitch-regulated] viola) and processors he uses, Nilsen lists the recorded sound sources.

And so, “amplified chair dragged across floor”, “window shutters”, “steel whistle coffeepot” and “birdsong” place their indelible mark on the opening track Gravity Station. A few minutes in, underneath a steady thick metallic drone and the hum of vibrating electrical lines, you can just barely make out what sounds like the weaving tones of a Middle Eastern flute – something you might hear off in the distance in a busy sun-drenched Arabian market. Or is it my imagination? Then, halfway through the almost 17 minute track, the chair and shutters lurch loudly and rudely across the sound field, heralding a rather menacing and doom-laden finale. A frantic chorus of birdsong whips things into a frenzy before the end comes with desperate bursts of twisted noise.

What does it all mean? I don’t know. But on the whole, Nilsen’s sound sculptures – which seems to me a more fitting description than “music” – are ominous. If they are indeed a representation of some aspect of city life, then it must be of an urban underbelly. Of dark things that lurk underneath the surface, like the high-pitched static squeals in Scientia that recall rats scurrying around the sewers beneath our cities. But more than anything, the music evokes industry and technology, from churning motors and machinery grinding to a halt in Phase and Amplitude to a burst of a fax transmission at the beginning of Virtual Resistance. Digital data snaking its way through the invisible passageways that lie behind the walls of our constructions.

The ironic thing is that many of the field recordings originate in nature. Bumblebees, wasps, birdsong, flapping wings, crows, rain, footsteps on snow, “dead trees leaning against each other”. But they are usually manipulated and processed to such an extent that they are unrecognizable. Nevertheless, they bring life, depth and movement to a cold and hard backdrop constructed of wires and steel. And together these elements form remarkable sound sculptures that will undoubtedly stand the test of time. [Tigon]

Black (Germany):

Der kleine Benny Nilsen mit der großen Brille ist schon weit in der Welt herum gekommen. Beginnend in den kalten Schlachthäusern Schwedens (Morthond/Morthound) ging seine Reise über den großen Teich zum Grind Ambient-Label Malignant (HAZARD) und auf den halben Wege wieder zurück auf die Insel zu Ash International bzw. letztendlich zum renommierten Touch-Label (BJ NILSEN). Was einst mit finstersten Höhlensounds (“This Crying Age”) begann und wenig später fast im Gothic-Kitsch (“Spindrift”) zu versinken drohte, wurde zu Dark Ambient (“Lech”) und endete schließlich mit Fieldrecordings und deren intelligenten Manipulationen. So jetzt auch sein aktuelles Album “The Invisible City”, welches in Berlin entstand und auf Feldaufnahmen aus Schweden, Island, Norwegen, England, Japan, Portugal und Deutschland fußt. Daraus und unter weiterer Verwendung von obskuren elektronischen Gerätschaften + verfremdeten akustischen Instrumenten entwirft BJ NILSEN ein faszinierendes Klangbild einer Stadt (Berlin?), das friedliche bis bedrohliche Momente offenbart, wobei die letzteren deutlich überwiegen. Für mich stellt das Album im Kopfkino die pechschwarze Vision einer dreckigen urbanen Metropole bei Nacht dar, welche gerade in spät-römischer Dekadenz versinkt (der Moloch Berlin lässt grüßen) und ich bin gleichzeitig verstört wie beeindruckt. Im Gegensatz zu dem sonst so schlichten Artwork der Touch-Veröffentlichungen, gibt es bei “The Invisible City” diesmal sogar ein Booklet mit Fotos einer nächtlich illuminierten Stadt und mit detaillierten Infos zu den einzelnen Sound-Ressourcen. Als Gast wirkt auf dem Album übrigens die Isländische Cellistin Hildur I. Gudnadottir mit, welche auch erst kürzlich ein Nebel verhangenes Album auf Touch veröffentlicht hat und das hiermit ebenfalls empfohlen sei. [M. Fiebag]

Liability (France):

Malgré son jeune âge (35 ans), BJ Nilsen fait déjà office de vétéran. Il faut dire que son premier disque, il l’a sorti alors qu’il n’avait que 15 ans sous le nom de Morthound. Vingt ans plus tard et après avoir pris quelques pseudos supplémentaires (Hazard, Tape Decay), le bonhomme est plus que jamais présent que ce soit seul ou en collaboration (notamment avec Z’ev, Stilluppsteypa, Fennesz, Philip Jeck…). Figure marquante des musiques expérimentales, ambiant et tout ce qui touche aux drones, BJ Nilsen a toujours été en pointe et il le prouve une fois de plus avec ce nouvel opus. Largement axé sur le field recordings, de quelques discrets instruments (guitare, organe, subharchord) et épaulé par le violon de Hildur Ingveldard Gudnadottir, BJ Nilsen s’approprie le terrain urbain pour en faire une échappée nocturne qui se tiendrait sur différents lieux du globe. En effet, notre homme, hormis la Suède d’où il est originaire, s’est déplacé en Islande, Norvège, Grande Bretagne, Japon, Portugal et en Allemagne pour récolter les sonorités nécessaires à l’élaboration de The Invisible City. Des sons qui proviennent donc d’endroits très différents pour créer cette cité invisible, une cité de l’imaginaire, utopique faites d’ombres et de lumières artificielles.

Bien entendu, l’exploration menée par BJ Nilsen est faites de multiples subtilités qui dépassent le cadre même de l’ambiant ou du développement ultra rabaché de drones. Ici, BJ Nilsen diversifie son propos en détaillant sa musique, multipliant les détails pour rendre ses créations multiformes et éloignées de toute propreté sonore. Mais il y a des limites. Nilsen ne cherche aucunement à être inaudible et se réfugier dans un nihilisme noise peu constructif. Au contraire, en fouillant dans les profondeurs de l’urbanité, le suédois a parfaitement intégré toute la diversité d’une cité qui ne finit pas de dévoiler tous ses mystères. Pas vraiment ambient, pas vraiment noise, The Invisible City se situe entre les deux laissant entrevoir des mélodies sinueuses, quelque peu abstraites mais qui ne sont pas repliées sur elles mêmes. Que les morceaux soient longs ou courts il y a toujours cette volonté de casser le mythe d’une musique trop froide, trop inerte. Certes, The Invisible City n’a rien de chaleureux mais il est certainement un tournant et une pièce non négligeable dans la discographie solo de BJ Nilsen. [Fabien]

Kathodik (Italy):

Field recordings di provenienza urbana disparata (Svezia, Islanda, Norvegia, Inghilterra, Giappone, Portogallo e Germania), intromissioni acustiche (chitarra, organo, viola, subharcord), manipolazione digitale.

Questo, da sempre, il lavoro dello svedese Bj Nilsen (noto anche come Hazard).
“The Invisible City”, propone un suono, che verrebbe quasi da definire storicizzato.
Al pari di altri artisti similari, come Fennesz, Philip Jeck, Biosphere, gli SPK di “Zamia Lehmanni”, William Basinski, Illusion Of Safety.

Pulviscolo post industriale, che offusca l’orizzonte.

Ambient scabra e tormentata, dai forti effluvi cinematici.

Dissezioni al microscopio, che mostrano crepe nel tessuto quotidiano, esplorazioni notturne, alla ricerca di produzioni acustiche autonome.

Lavoro di mirabile cesello, fra strutture flebilmente mormoranti, e filamenti acustici, inquieti e dronanti.

Come nel precedente “The Short Night” (la notte e gli spazi artici), a risaltare, è un possente senso, di febbricitante vertigine statica.

In Gradient, fra chitarra acustica, feedback e Hammond virtuale, si scorgono anche tratti Popol Vuh (circolarità che si ritrovano nel tempo…).

Un processo di sedimentazione sonora, che per accumulo spontaneo, sfocia sovente, in territori radianti alla Niblock (il colpo in petto, è in quel caso, amplificato a dismisura).
Sperimentazione pubblicamente discreta e senza tempo.

Eccitazione dei sensi e corpi in fase riposo.

Una febbre salutare. 4/5 [Marco Carcasi]

Nutida (Sweden):

igloo (USA):

BJ Nilsen’s The Invisible City has more in common with Niblock’s Touch Strings than Eleh’s Location Momentum in that it is composed from a diverse and carefully selected collection of sound sources ranging from specific instruments to the sound of a chair being dragged across a floor and field recordings of birdsong. As is apparent from Niblock’s attention to detail, Nilsen meticulously lists all the sources used for each track in the sleeve notes for the album as though the source and inspiration for each track is as important as the composition itself. Consisting of extended passages of gentle often atmospheric ambience punctuated with short bursts of abrasive high-pitched sound, The Invisible City is partly an album of contrasts but also a testament to the creative use of diverse sound sources, some of which are highly processed, some of which are left untouched.

Opening with the lengthy “Gravity Station,” The Invisible City sets the scene with a steady electrical buzz and an array of digital chatter somewhat akin to the incidental music of an edgy indie movie. The fascinating thing is that neither of these things are listed as sound sources, meaning that Nilsen has created them from unrelated sounds, manipulating them to produce something completely new. During its second half, the track takes on a more sinister theme by combining deep eerie shifting tones, rattling roller blinds and tense lingering synths to give it a distinct horror movie touch. “Virtual Resistance” is another long track that clocks in at just under 15 minutes and starts off with grating feedback but quickly switches mood to wonderfully smooth languid tones before a short pause leads into tense creeping atmospheres intensified by occasional guitar strums before ending on the sound of deep snow crunching under foot. Continuing the tense atmospheric theme is “Gradient” which combines a deep vibrating drone with echoed guitar to create a serene but darkly ominous 11 minute track complete with church-like Hammond organ for added atmosphere. Perhaps the most disturbing of the tracks however is “Into Its Coloured Rays” which begins with glistening radiant beauty but descends into a unsettling cycle of demonic confusion.

The Invisible City reflects the mood of a sprawling metropolis from its eerie stillness at the dead of night through to the bustling chaotic noise of rush hour. Depicting its subject in a number of ways through a number of contrasting sonic interpretations, Nilsen portrays the imagery from an intimate and personal viewpoint that is a generally dark and often scary picture. Punctuated with passages of aggressive noise between longer periods of uneasy calm, the transitions between tracks are sometimes deliberately stilted to represent the stark contrasts the city can hide beneath its neon lit veneer.

Black (Germany):

Bodyspace (Space):

Hawai (Chile):

Hogar de gente como Ryoji Ikeda, Philip Jeck, Oren Ambarchi, Rafael Toral y, por supuesto, el más conocido de todos, Christian Fennesz, Touch ha servido de punto de encuentro de las voces –lo de ‘voces’ es un decir, pues la mayoría sino toda es música instrumental– mas adelantadas de la música moderna. Una de ellas es la de Benny Jonas Nilsen, BJ Nilsen. Nacido en 1975, el sueco ha desarrollado su carrera desde principios de los noventa, primero como impulsor de una escena en Estocolmo, y ya desde 1999 sacando trabajos, casi todos en la casa inglesa, o en su filial Ash International. Su curriculum habla de un artista “principalmente enfocado en los sonidos de la naturaleza y sus efectos en los humanos, grabaciones de campo y la percepción del tiempo y el espacio como una experiencia a través del sonido, a menudo tratado electrónicamente”.
Como una forma de captar lo que no captamos regularmente, “The Invisible City” aborda a la ciudad como un lugar a descubrir, un lugar en el que habitamos pero que comúnmente no conocemos. “Estaba enfocado en pequeñas situaciones. Cosas a las que tal vez la gente no les presta atención”. Grabado entre el 2008 y el 2009, en el disco confluyen muchos sonidos, unos artificiales –grabadoras de cinta, laptop, órgano, guitarras acústicas y eléctricas, viola (Hildur Ingveldard Gudnadottir), efectos, la mayoría de las veces manipulados– y otros más o menos naturales –field recordings de lugares como su natal Suecia, Islandia, Noruega, Inglaterra, Japón, Portugal y Alemania (en ese país, en Berlín, reside desde hace ya tres años)–. Respecto a esto último, cobra especial interés una de sus varias colaboraciones. Me refiero a sus dos discos junto Chris Watson: “Wind” (Ash International, 2000) y, especialmente, “Storm” (Touch, 2006). En esos discos aquellas grabaciones eran el elemento primordial, y ellos pasaban a ser más un músico-espectador, como en casi todos los trabajos del inglés. En este caso, son un objeto sonoro más dentro de los muchos que hay, el sonido preciso –“No creo necesariamente creo que encender un micrófono en cualquier lugar haga una grabación interesante. Busqué algo con más forma y más claridad para este disco. Los sonidos fueron todos cuidadosamente estructurados y editados para la composición”–. La fascinación y la extrañeza que produce la ciudad se miran en el espejo de este disco, el movimiento perpetuo de una urbe invisible. Sin llegar al silencio, la calma de las armónicas estructuras que fluyen en sus tracks así como la portada del álbum, obra de Jon Wozencroft, hacen pensar en una audición nocturna. En efecto, se trata de piezas que transcurren por la quietud, minimalistas melodías con puntuales destellos, casando el ambient con electricidad drónica. Mas que personas habitando, se trata de fantasmas visitando su antiguo hogar. Guitarras a la manera de Earth (“Virtual Resistance”), arboles muertos apoyándose unos con otros que recuerda viejos espíritus de las montañas del Japón (“Into Its Coloured Rays”), lluvia de sonidos monoaurales (“The Invisible City”).

Antes vino la noche breve. Con “The Invisible City” el sueco logra unir los mundos conviven en una ciudad, mostrar su cara velada, mostrar sus fascinantes caras con fascinantes y apacibles sonidos, la estática del ruido eterno. “Desde que me críe en el campo, la ciudad siempre fue algo que estaba cargado con un montón de excitante energía. Siempre tuve nostalgia por la gran ciudad, pero es un lugar que puede ser a la vez peligroso y bello. Además me encanta la cualidad meditativa que la ciudad puede proveer con su infinito drone de actividad”.