You wake up in the middle of an empty room, in the dark. You sense that it is a spacious place, with high ceilings and smooth walls that make a short, cold echo every time you drag your feet to turn around. As the sounds take shape around you, images begin to pile up in your hippocampus: an old, silent black and white movie; a needle dropping brusquely onto the rough surface of an old vinyl record with very deep grooves; a projector running only on the inertia of its own memories, shooting frames of light against one of the walls of a room that now, partially illuminated, seems much smaller, more discreet, accessible. In the background, you think you hear a boat’s engines, sirens with a hoarse, muted voice, languid violins that suggest an exodus, a search for the traces of a vanished past. You concentrate your attention on the area outlined by the light on the wall in front of you, and you feel as if the shadows are starting to pile up in this square, as if the different beams of light were trying to come together in images... “The Disjointed” finishes and you think of the scenic spell of Philip Jeck, of Theo Angelopoulos, of the ghost hunter Leyland Kirby wrapping the scratching of strings that Eleni Karaindrou has released for the Greek’s films in spectral humour, or of a more autistic Kreng with blurrier lines. When the piece comes to an end and the silence returns, the feeling that prevails is that of having travelled... towards the darkness.
The third album from the Swede Marcus Fjellström shows a marked noirvisual component. There is also a feature of “space” perhaps arising from Fjellström’s experience in the area of multimedia installations, which means that the music often is perceived in three dimensions, as if it were linked to the physical characteristics of the spaces that it evokes. In “Schattenspieler” (an expression that means “shadowplayer” or “shadow-playing device” in the same way that a “Plattenspieler” is a word meaning “record player”), Fjellström once again builds his scores on that no-man’s-land where modern classical composition, electro-acoustic drone, and sombre ambient converge. Over the course of eleven short pieces (lasting from two to five minutes), more suggested than set out, the Swede explores the limits of melody and atmosphere, of texture and singularity of timbre, of sound congestion and emptiness, creating an effect that is highly intriguing, at the very least.
The chords of “Bis Einer Weint”vibrate in a frequency that is not difficult to associate with the sound imagination of the psychological thriller, located somewhere between the soundtracks of Jerry Goldsmith or Bernard Hermann and Györgi Ligeti’s “Atmospheres”. The melodic voices sprout and disappear, flowering in the midst of what might pass for a nervous swarm of bees, sliding restlessly through a grate of synthetic pulses that seem to draw straight, pure lines that reflect every time that they come into contact with a smooth surface, changing direction and altering the harmonic proportion of the entire piece. “Antichrist Architecture Management” is less disturbing and at the same time more obsessive, suggesting feelings of confusion and psychic drifting through electronic borders with an analogue feel, sinusoidal waves that end up melting into the blowing of woodwinds—oboes, one would say—that often play about at drawing the same shapes. Occasional percussions—sounding ever distant, wrapped in echoes and reverb– and the cosmic aftertaste of synthetic evolutions make one think of the Benge of “Twenty Systems” crossed with the occult world of Demdike Stare.
Not everything is darkness and late night in “Schattenspieler”. The beginning of “Untitled 09616”represents a change of tone: here the light perceived is white, with almost sacred nuances (think of Bach’s “Canon Variations”, but in a screwed version, and pass the image that you get through the degrading filter of Deathprod), with an almost celestial lightness, although later the percussion provides a tension and uneasiness that is prolonged and magnified in “Tremolous” (eminently acoustical doom drone, raised on a mantle of low chords that would pass for choral voices like in Ligeti’s “Lux Aeterna”) and “Monolith & Bunker”(rustier, harsher, and darker, connecting the Ben Frost of “By the Throat” to the Iannis Xenakis of “Thallein”). There begins a suite in four parts that was originally conceived of as a soundtrack for “House without a Door,” an experimental film by the German artist Bernd Behr. The feeling of suspense is constant throughout these four movements, although the forms change. The album has one of its most silent, most meditative moments in “Tenebrous”. The harmonics of bronze bowls resound while the strings peek out shyly, furtively, in the centre of a song with a solemn, almost funeral humour. “Uncanny Valleys”, with its Badalamenti-style organs and its faint pulse bring the album to an end in the land of hauntological evocation, closing the magic circle (in reality restarting it) that “The Disjointed”opened fifty minutes earlier.
“Schattenspieler” might seem like mere “furniture music” to the ears of someone impatient, or someone unversed in instrumental horizontal-listening music. Seen from the outside, it might give the feeling of being harmless music, another example of ambient that is pernicious and disquieting, but innocuous. However, it is enough to set both feet on the other side of its threshold to see that there is no way back: deep down, this album is a psychic trap, like a gallery of articulated mirrors that return the degraded reflection of visions that disturb, and can even come to obsess. Luis M. Rguez