Mokira - "Ode to the Ode to the Street Hassle" (Persona)
One way to approach writing about Persona, by my count the seventh full-length relase from Swede Andreas Tilliander under his Mokira alias, is to enumerate all the things it does right with the hazy, distended electronic sounds it’s built from. Playing out like an album-length ambient mix, Persona bears comparison in more than title to fellow scando Vladislav Delay’s recently reissued Anima. No explanation of Tilliander’s process came packaged with the album, but its pacing and unity make me think it could have been composed and recorded on-the-spot, as Anima was. There’s a level of immediacy to Tilliander’s decisions, and though Persona is pointedly monochromatic, a small blush of body heat is transferred through the machinery.
While Persona doesn’t sound like it was created using an Eno-influenced system of discrete processes for processing and cycling sounds, the record affect is similar: structured without sounding too intentional, the languorous synths that open the album with the combined 18-minute opening suite “About Last Step And Scale,” and “Lord, Am I Going Down?” sound like tuned wind currents wending around one another. One of the effects Tilliander plays with on these two tracks is a very light distortion that only appears at the edges of these electronic gusts, as if he blew the sounds too full of air and the excess bleeds through. Tilliander’s focus, like many artists doing interesting things with ambient, is in a certain kind of saturation, and moments like these bear comparison to the mucky pigment fringe between two blobs of watercolor.
“Contour,” a series of differently filtered plinks that sounds not unlike an avant-garde rendition of someone knocking on a wall to find a stud, serves as a kind of dividing line between the pleasantly gritty streams of the album’s introduction and the more compactly rhythmic second part. The 11-minute “Valla Torg Kraut” stands in Persona’s center, with backwards, harmonic-rich loops contending with some destabilizing knocks left over from “Contour.” “Valla” runs longer than it should and has a strange, antiseptic quality, as if it were made up of sounds sampled from public transportation and aural industrial semaphores — perhaps it just sounds like a very funky city truck backing up interminably. The album’s momentum is rather dreamy, though, not based on velocity but involution, so there’s not much reason for even the fastidious listener to skip over it.
If they did, however, they’d get to the album’s most human moment, “Oscillations and Tremolo,” which will strike the casual listener for its first six minutes as a characteristic Spacemen 3 warm-up. Around that point, though, a sly little melody sneaks its way into the mix; combined with the vowel-like voicings of the hard tremolo, it almost sounds ready to go into more pop territory but just as suddenly vanishes. Much like the 10-minute edit released along with the 60-minute Anima, closing track “Invitation to Love” is a summary that suffers and benefits from its relative density in equal measure. The book about the Scandinavian obsession with Twin Peaks has yet to be written, but “Invitation” is aptly chosen: the title of a fictional soap opera within the Twin Peaks series that was meant to run parallel to the action, the song here is like the album’s opening moments relieved of the duty of introducing an Album. It shifts, whispers, and shudders into oblivion and back with a sort of sandy patience before finally lapsing for good. Like the show-within-a-show, its quiet neglect and mysterious exit seems like the best metaphor for the main event.