Nov 6 2014
One of the truly absorbing albums I’ve encountered lately is Liquid Light by Equilibrium, a trio of guitarist Mikkel Ploug, clarinetist Joachim Badenhorst and vocalist Sissel Vera Pettersen, who also slips some soprano sax into the mix as well as some well placed electronics and effects to go along with her wordless vocals. It’s a strange kind of ambient music expressed here, an uneasy serenity that possesses a drifting motion but sparks to life with teeming bits of nuance and texture. There’s nothing sleepy about this music even though it often behaves as if sculpted from moonlight and dreams.
The three musicians don’t interact so much as develop comparable trajectories, and where orbital motion is maintained by a very elastic collaborative gravity.
“Thalassa” builds a staggering cadence, increasing its strength while obscured by the drifting harmonics of wordless vocals. It creates a nice bit of tension between the differing motions, each making a strong case for why the ear should direct its attention in their direction and not the other. “Praha” is a series of calls into the night, sometimes inquisitive, sometimes probing. It’s a melodic feint, and a sly way of instigating the sensation of motion. It’s a similar method applied to “Sweep,” which is marked by gentle surges that suddenly rise up to threatening levels. And then are tracks like “Statolith,” where warped voices twist and turn above a cloud of hazy electronics. Shrieks from woodwinds mock the attempts at ambient music.
Some tracks possess almost no form at all but are simply a function of their motion. “Respire” is a hymn floating up in the church rafters. The brief interludes of “Eupnea,” “Air” and “Hiro” exemplify this quality to an even greater degree in that they dismiss even the concept of a ‘beginning’ and ‘end’ to their expression, as if creativity were at the mercy of an on/off switch.
Tracks like “Laglio” and “Oslo From Above” have a sing-songy delivery and allow the melody to come into focus. They’re the closest thing to catchy on this album, which more often relies on subtlety to transfix the listener. Ploug’s notes are the trail markers to the path of Pettersen’s voice. Badenhorst’s clarinet is hovering nearby at all times.
It ends with “Comacina Dreaming,” a song that gives each artist a moment alone in the spotlight to highlight those qualities that contributed to the mesmerizing loveliness conveyed throughout.
An album that demands the listener’s attention then immediately incites daydreams and reveries. And enjoyable… very, very enjoyable.
Your album personnel: Sissel Vera Pettersen (voice, soprano sax, live electronics, singing bowls), Joachim Badenhorst (clarinet, bass clarinet), and Mikkel Ploug (electric & acoustic guitars).
Released on Songlines Recordings. Visit the label site for a free album track.
You can also buy directly from Songlines Recordings via Paypal.