David Wenngren and Jonatan Nästesjö: Below
Listeners familiar with David Wenngren's output under the Library Tapes name (or others such as Murralin Lane and Le Lendemain) might bring certain expectations to how this collaborative venture with close friend Jonatan Nästesjö might sound. But anyone anticipating neo-classical, piano-based settings augmented with electronic textures and field recordings should set such expectations aside, as Below is a different animal altogether. If there's a common thread to the recording, it's the omnipresence of organ tones—even if the instrument's familiar sound presents itself more as a soft exhalation that, lingering protractedly in the air, shimmers translucently in the album's four ethereal settings.
For this thirty-five-minute foray into ambient-drone soundscaping, the Eskilstuna, Sweden resident Wenngren joins forces with Nästesjö (aka Woodchucker), who calls Jönköping, Sweden home and is an occasional touring partner of Wenngren's. They make a natural pair given that both draw inspiration from the natural world and liberally deploy electronic processing in their creative work.
While their material satisfies the trademarks of the ambient-drone genre, it's not without dramatic changes in dynamics. “Something There,” for example, proves to be anything but static when it increases in volume and intensity as it nears the end of its ten-minute run, while the even more intense “Before I Leave” swells to a monumental pitch. The harmonious melodic progression in “Feel Nothing” also illustrates why Nästesjö's work has been described as “cathedral electronic music,” especially when the material achieves an almost symphonic grandeur as it builds towards its climax. Suffused with melancholia, “Before I Leave” tugs at the heartstrings by using wave upon wave of gauzy organ tones and washes to simulate the volatility of emotional states; by contrast, “Still Nothing Moves You” conveys a subtle sense of uplift in its surging, high-pitched tonalities.The material is also not bereft of melody, even if no one will come away from Below whistling a hook. Nevertheless, subtle wisps of melody do float through the pieces, melody being something more alluded to than voiced explicitly. All told, the recording, while short by CD standards, is as refined an example of ambient-drone as one might hope to find.