In three consecutive weeks all of “A Vibrant Struggle’s” releases of 2010 have received positive reviews at Foxy Digitalis, one of the best online music magazines. “A Vibrant Struggle” is a collaboration between Jan-M. Iversen, Sindre Bjerga and me. Below the round up (and no, I’m not Norwegian).
A Vibrant Struggle “Between the Woods and Frozen Lake” CD-r, Moving Furniture Records
Here we have “Between the Woods and Frozen Lake,” the tenth(!) release from A Vibrant Struggle’s “Molten Snow Tapes” sessions, once again composed from the fruits of piles of tapes that were collected over the course of a single weekend in an abandoned ski resort back in September of 2007. Foxy Digitalis reviewed an earlier installment from the Norwegian trio on the Small Doses label called “Whispering Bones,” in which Ryan Emmett allowed his imagination to take hold with visions of an old man in a knit sweater, brutally hunting reindeer for survival with ice picks in the freezing cold. If that old man was cognizant of his surroundings throughout “Whispering Bones,” perhaps “Between the Woods and Frozen Lake” finds that same burly white-bearded fellow holed up in his cabin several days later, fat (from reindeer), subdued and drunkenly confused, maybe even letting his guard down a little. He’s being stalked—whether that be by his own conscience or by some…thing? hunter? animal?…peering into the frosted window with glowing eyes is perhaps up to you.
The 31 minutes of the piece move through droning dial tone-like harmonics (sonorous, but simultaneously dissonant) and maddeningly hypnotic repetitions of clinking metallic sounds. There are moments of sustained static and growing moans of bowed strings that invoke feelings of dread in its purest form. To hear “Between the Woods and Frozen Lake” is to be inside its creative space, next to a roaring wood stove, beneath a grandfather clock with the radio faintly playing in the background and feeling yourself slowly going insane with isolation as you become hyper-sensitized to the cabin’s ostensibly violent ambience closing in around you. A Vibrant Struggle manages to find something menacing here, even when the music is at its quietest. They’ve created this scene, but they’re also capturing it in a way that sounds natural and spontaneous.
It’s tough to say whether the music is edited from different portions of the taped sessions, or if this is a live performance. This ambiguity gives the piece a real holistic sense of progression. A Vibrant Struggle’s work flips forward like chapters of a book with clearly defined sections that build to unsettling climaxes before tapering off and focusing on the next set of textures. The most powerful portion comes in the final third with what sounds like the dripping of water in a tin pail, rhythmically finding a pattern and intensifying with sustained harmonics over time, transforming an otherwise mundane object into something else entirely savage and threatening.
As the last windy dirge ceases without much warning, A Vibrant Struggle leaves something of a question mark where an epilogue might have gone (a more gradual fade would have given the piece a bit more finality). The veil of their creative process is lifted with this quick turn of a volume knob, reducing what was at once a suspenseful horror story back to what this really is: just a bunch of tapes recorded by three guys in a cabin over a weekend. Nothing to be afraid of… 8/10 — Crawford Philleo (28 July, 2010)
A Vibrant Struggle “Soft Illusions” tape, 2:00AM Tapes
From Norway, these fellas get literal on Side A: “Buzzin For Hum” is about four shades of repetitive oscillations, humming and buzzing through the pedal-scapes created. Mostly a slow drift, burrowing around until the end, there’s a bounce to the track, almost poppy in its delivery.
Side B: “Dead City” starts off like the first side for a split second before getting angrier and darker real quick. Significantly louder too, the track is more rock compared to the first side, but rock in a Dead C mish-mash of random guitar lines, lots of background noise and amp fuzz and feedback so prevalent, it may as well be the lead singer.
7/10 — Andrew Murdock Livingston (4 August, 2010)
A Vibrant Struggle “Black Hole Meditation” CD-r, House of Alchemy
Sitting firmly in lotus position, I try to gather my attention on a specific point in my body. By doing this, I also manage to use my attention on sensing my limbs, using a precise mathematical formula. This ongoing mind control prevents me from entering the “zone,” an area of consciousness in which I’m afraid to indulge. Every time I go there, I keep hearing these sounds, maybe it’s the rattle of the city road refection unit, maybe it isn’t. Every morning, my meditation consists of a vibrant struggle against life’s continuous stress. Every morning, I’m taken away by some mental constructions that make a hell of a clatter.
To build these blocks of identifications, you need the perfect soundtrack—industrious. Sounds of machines hammering, working in some sort of plant. A plant where they breed only one kind of man, mechanical man. Mechanical man doesn’t know he’s asleep, and he doesn’t try to wake up. To gain some level of consciousness he must use the struggles of life as a tool to awaken. Everything that irritates him is a lever, either going up or down.
This is not meditation music but it may be used as such, if one feels he has enough energy to deal with its intensity. Consisting of one long song, “Black Hole Meditation” is grasping on your attention, choking it, inducing high levels of anxiety if you’re able empty your mind. All light is absorbed and nothing escapes. Black holes have three characteristics—mass, charge and angular momentum. They’re shared by this piece of music but named differently; heavyosity, electricity and movement. It is said that a black hole cannot be seen from outside, that you have to get inside to understand what’s going on. I guess that explains why a friend told me this CD sounded like the recording of a laundromat…
The “Black Hole Meditation” starts with a steady pulse, spare but quite loud, inviting us to focus on a specific rhythm. This rhythm is present throughout the half-hour long song, switching modes and speed, but always present. Sometimes it is eclipsed by powerful drones of distorted guitars. Halfway through, some really nice electronic work glimmers on the surface, consigning the drone to a more rhythmic function. Rhythm seems to be the key of this meditation, as revealed by the ending, a 4/4 beat with high level of treated feedback breaking the surface of these rather droney landscapes. But we all know this familiar rythm, the one of workers on a chain. 8/10 — Frédérick Galbrun (11 August, 2010)