Issued on their own Twin Seed Recordings imprint, Lisa Nordström and Lisen Rylander Löve return with their fourth full-length Midaircondo album IV, this one recorded in front of a live audience at Svenska Grammofonstudion in Gothenburg. Active since 2003, Midaircondo started out as a trio but soon settled into its current duo formation, with Nordström (voice, bass flute, zither, percussion, electronics) and Löve (voice, tenor sax, kalimba, percussion, electronics) now solely responsible for the group's stylistically rich sound. Midaircondo has not only issued the albums Shopping for Images (2005), Curtain Call (2009), Reports on the Horizon (2011), and now IV, it's also created music for dance performances, theater, TV, radio, and film.
Yet while the acoustic-electronic outfit is highly regarded in Sweden and has received numerous awards, its profile is lower outside the country's borders. Perhaps the uncompromising nature of the group's sound has something to do with it. Rather than softening their music's edges in hopes of broadening their audience, Nordström and Löve have remained resolutely faithful to the Midaircondo vision. Seeing themselves as conduits for the music on IV, the duo describes themselves as having been “actually there when the music takes shape, transforms, and change.”
The uncompromising nature of the group's approach is evident in the opening setting “They Fall,” where voices and woodwinds hauntingly drift o'ertop a dirge-like base; even at this early stage, it's clear that Midaircondo is less intent on courting pop devotees than creating hypnotic moodscapes that have more in common with experimental sound art than the Top 40. The hallucinatory reveries “Sun Upon You,” “Quakes,” and “Panther” likewise capture the group at its most free-flowing. In a woodwinds-heavy piece such as “Closer,” the presence of tenor sax and bass flute brings forth the late-night jazz dimension of the Midaircondo sound. There are also moments where the tension between the group's pop and experimental tendencies declares itself, such as during “Veins” where the appeal of a memorable vocal melody and club groove is offset by a churning industrial-electronic backdrop.
If there one track that's radio-friendly, it's “Higher,” which graces its driving pulse with strong vocal melodies and a sweeping sound design. Whereas other settings on the album might possess a pronounced improvised dimension, “Higher” sounds as if every vocal and instrumental detail was meticulously mapped out beforehand. Elsewhere, Nordström and Löve's appetite for improv-driven exploration is well-accounted for in tracks that often extend up to seven to nine minutes at a time.
The sixty-three-minute recording provides an in-depth portrait of Midaircondo as it currently stands, and listeners with a taste for boldly explorative electronica should find IV a tantalizing listen. The group's fluid fusion of acoustic instruments, vocal treatments, and electronics makes for a heady combination and a unique one, too. And don't be thrown by the live recording detail: IV doesn't feature audience noise and applause of the kind one would hear in a conventional live recording; instead, the eleven tracks were laid down live in a studio in front of quietly attentive listeners.