Jasper TX :: Black Sleep (Miasmah)

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(09.21.08) Dag Rosenqvist comes to Miasmah with a sound forged over several lower profile releases. He gave notice of his ambit of operations on previous Jasper TX albums like In A Cool Mansoon and I’ll Be Long Gone Before My Light Reaches You, but Black Sleep, a fifth full-length, is the most fully developed statement yet.Miasmah provides a ready-made home for him, situated as it is at the hub of an emergent sub-genre formed by intersecting vectors of post-classical, film music, and spooked drone-scapery. It sits alongside other kindred spirit labels like Type, and projects such as Deaf Center and Svarte Greiner (both led by Miasmah head, Erik Skodvin), as well as Xela (Type boss) and The North Sea (Digitalis curator). Mention might also be made of previous Miasmah emissions, each indicative of a slightly different musical strand perceptible in the Black Sleep mix – elegiac updates of conventional instrumentation (Rafael Anton Irisarri), murky dronings (Elegi), and post-classical sequences (Jacaszek). Some mining this area have been prone to plunging into cartoon doom-fetishising and gloom-mongering, but on the whole Rosenqvist goes for equal measures of droning textural exploration and post-rock guitar-pluck tropes, commingling instrumental melodics and tenebrous atmospherics with infusions of audio detritus.

Blurred chthonic upsurges, ghostly moans and soft feedback announce “Pt. I,” further perturbed by uneasy pulsings below, eventually dissolving into a wash of noise and guitar arpeggiation. “Pt. II” changes tack to sound even deeper low-end depths with an evil sawtooth rumble before “Pt. III” shifts to sweeter, positively twee sonorities, with a pastiche of the Twin Peaks theme, all pretty plucked guitar and discreet organ cadences. Pleasant, but hardly approaching the cutting edge sound art being claimed of Black Sleep in the electronic-and-otherwise music press. “Pt. IV” returns to muted hummings and obscure creak and crackle before finding aperture in a slew of sustain and remote harmonic drift. The development of Rosenqvist’s sound design prowess is evident here. Most ambitious is the 19-minute end-piece, “Pt. VI,” which, however, errs in allowing fully seven minutes of radiodrama-style field fiddle to elapse before spooling out some Machinefabriek-like guitar-bending, and settling into a spectral drone tableau bespeckled with noise, doomy sustains sliding out to overlap and form an inky mass that slowly recedes to poignant piano coda.

Black Sleep is, overall, suffused with an over-familiar dynamic of slowcore and doom-drift, tones wafting languorously up from below only to dip down into a dim-lit drowse-zone of murk and midden. Rosenqvist may well acknowledge Oren Ambarchi, Johann Johannsson, and Tim Hecker as influences, their influence being palpable. However, though Black Sleep gets close to discharging its titular dark dreamscape remit, it languishes overmuch in insipid pluckery and bleak lull-out. Certainly, it falls a way short of the inflated Deathprod and Badalamenti-referencing claims made for its sound artistry in the associated array of promotional and retail discourse.

Black Sleep is out now on Miasmah. [Purchase]

  • Miasmah
  • Jasper TX
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