CD – 6 tracks – 45:29
1. Purple Phase
2. Dead Reckoning
3. Let Me Know When It’s Over
5. Grappa Polar
6. Nine Ways Till Sunday
Benny Nilsen writes: “‘Fade To White’ contains material from the making of 3 pieces which were created within a different season and then edited, re-arranged and re-mixed in the summer of 2004. 6 pieces contain outdoor field recordings from travels in mainly central europe in 2003 [Gdansk/Poland, Narva/Estonia, Sarajevo/Serbia Herzegovina, Arad/Romania, Trieste/Italy], and static indoor recordings from 2004 Stockholm/Sweden, Brussels/Belgium, Amsterdam/Netherlands, Vienna/Austria, Geneva/Switzerland. I used acoustic and electrical instruments recorded in open spaces picking up the natural ambience, blending those with environmental sounds of nature and then arranged it in the computer, creating dynamic layers of sound that feed from one another.” This is BJNilsen’s 3rd album for Touch, after “Land” and “Live at the Konzerthaus, Vienna” . He also recorded 3 Hazard albums for Ash International.
Swedish sound artist BJ Nilsen has been recording music for half his life, initially under the name Morthond, more recently as Hazard. Rising on 30, he’s dropped his pseudonyms, but not his methodologies.
Fade To White, his first proper release under his own name, could very easily have been a Hazard CD. There’s the same electronic exaggeration of natural sounds, the same paradoxical distortion of space; passively attended, Nilsen’s music evokes grand vistas and distant horizons, but if you concentrate on the jagged little artifacts of digital manipulation that he introduces into his material, you might feel like someone has sucked all the air out of the sky.
Still, this is no rehash. One difference is the degree to which Nilsen has disguised his source material; while parts of Wind (Ash International) were quite recognizably windy, Fade to White’s environmental sounds have been so thoroughly processed that there’s no telling where they came from. The manmade elements retain a bit more identity; there’s no mistaking the shortwave radio tuning noises on “Nine Ways Till Sunday.” But you can’t always be sure; in “Impossibilidad,” what sounds for a moment like a brass fanfare soon degrades into a series of DSP-dimmed flickers.
Another difference is the material’s darkness, which is more than a tad ironic given both the album’s name and the high pitches that pepper its sonic expanses. Particularly bleak is “Grappa Polar,” in which footsteps crossing the stereo spectrum give way to choking rattles hacking impotently at a great siren’s wail, and the piercing high frequencies that seep from the cracks of “…Sunday” suggest cruel intent.
And therein lies the biggest difference between this record and its immediate predecessors, Hazard’s Land and Wind; despite moments of loveliness, Fade to White uses sound to impart drama, not comfort. [Bill Meyer]
Cyclic Defrost (Australia):
To the degree that such a claim can be made, BJ Nilsen’s Fade to White might be the quintessential Touch album. Consider: Nilsen generated its six pieces using outdoor field recordings archived from 2003 sojourns to Poland, Estonia, Serbia Herzegovina, Romania, and Italy, plus indoor recordings from 2004 visits to Sweden, Belgium, Netherlands, Austria, and Switzerland. Returning home to Stockholm, he blended and layered the material via computer, transforming it into pieces of richly textured droning ambiance. Fade to White is BJ Nilsen’s third Touch release, following his Hazard outing Land and Live at the Konzerthaus, Vienna (not counting three Hazard recordings issued by Ash International).
The album tone is set immediately by the ten-minute ‘Purple Phase’ whose faint opening rumbles are replaced three minutes in by an organ drone that rapidly intensifies until it seethes, all the while gradually augmented by all manner of snarling detritus. With its tactile array of abstracted fly buzzings, wave crashings, and assorted scuppered noises, ‘Dead Reckoning’ reveals Nilsen’s affinity for soundscapes, though an even more striking instance is ‘Grappa Polar’ where erupting stutters and muffled horns coalesce into a haunting alien setting of insectile nattering and ethereal thrum. ? ?Nilsen maintains interest throughout by countering the drone’s static dimension with perpetually developing fields of activity, ‘Let me know when it’s over’ a case in point. Organ murmurings begin the piece familiarly enough but suddenly the left channel drops out, momentarily highlighting the punctuation of what resembles processed church bells before the left channel joins in with a similar sound, the result a multi-layered field of smothered washes that crackle and snuffle as they morph into a wavering, buzzing drone. An even better example is the fifteen-minute epic ‘Nine ways till Sunday.’ As one might expect, the piece slowly develops, opening with soft buzzing skittering over a gentle drone before delicate cymbal-like simmer joins in, the sound gradually expanding with delicate acoustic filigrees and keyboard glistenings. Halfway through, a deep bass tone pierces the field’s centre and escalates in intensity alongside organ glimmerings and static noise. The piece continues to slowly mutate until it abruptly drops out at the twelve-minute mark, replaced by the quiet processed sounds of what might be outdoor rustlings, lamb bleating, and church bells. [Ron Schepper]
The Wire (UK):
A sound like distant transport containers pounded by rubber mallets is succeeded by a single, wavering note that’s increasingly underscored by dense, ululating undertones. The effect is tensely magisterial as if a king were standing on a cliff as it disintegrates into a stormy sea far below. The structural simplicity of this 10 minute piece, Purple Phase, combined with its textural detail and keening pitch makes for an impressive experience comparable to surveying a dramatic coastal landscape at length. Fade to White is Benny Jonas Nilsen’s first release since last year’s rather lovely Live At Konzerthaus Wien, issued by Touch on cdr. It continues a fascination for environmental soundscapes but, unlike its predecessor, breaks proceedings into six tracks that range in duration between five and fifteen minutes. Each piece was recorded in open spaces around central Europe before being digitally remixed and arranged.
Dead Reckoning is denser and muddier than Purple Phase. It scuffles and scrapes at the eardrums as if trying to scour away an accumulated residue that might otherwise prevent its assimilation. Beneath the chilly vapours and surface scree of Let Me Know When It’s Over a tumbling piano motif can be spied, while parts of Grappa Polar are comprised of legions of patient trumpets. At least this is the impression intermittently conjured by Nilsen’s sonic sculpting, but like shapes seen in clouds, the trumpets and piano are an association of the mind that it’s difficult to verify the reality of. These soundscapes mirror the strange intersections of natural and manmade worlds in lengthy brooding passages that accrete into moments of elegiac grandeur. [Colin Buttimer]