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Æthenor - En Form for Blå

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Artist: Æthenor

Album: En Form for Blå

Label: VHF

Review date: Mar. 18, 2011

Despite the presence of Sunn O)))’s Steven O’Malley, Æthenor is a metal-free endeavor. That’s not all that Æthenor isn’t; despite being totally improvised, the quartet’s output doesn’t square with conventional notions of improvised music. The only other combo out there that extemporizes like Æthenor is Supersilent. Both groups generate big, cloudy masses of sound that don’t fit easily into any genre, and both would be lost without their electronic effect, which make familiar instruments like the electric guitar or Fender Rhodes piano into emitters of amorphous atmosphere.

One factor that distinguishes Æthenor, which also includes Krystoffer Rygg (Ulver), Daniel O’Sullivan (Guapo), and Steve Noble (NEW, Rip Rig & Panic) is the willingness to let the music be distant. While there are moments where En Form for Blå (named for the Oslo club where it was recorded) rolls right over you like a rogue wave, more often it sounds like the main action was situated a couple rooms away from the microphones. Keys trill and the bass swells, but you can’t quite grasp what they’re doing.

By contrast, Noble’s percussion is fully present. He’s a seasoned free improviser and it shows; each cymbal strike and hi-hat chop is like a flashbulb going off, freezing the moment with stark clarity. He’s a welcome contrary influence, but he’s also the one player who proposes content of a recognizable genre. The others work around the periphery of his playing, or carry right on past it, like shamans casting spells in little-known tongues despite the attendant anthropologist who stands nearby, eruditely articulating a context for what they do. He may be totally right in everything he says, but the power’s still in the mystery.

By Bill Meyer

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