BJNilsen - Eye of the Microphone

CD + MP3 download of BJNilsen Live at Café Oto 8th November 2013
[Touch # TO:95] CD album (digital download TO:95DD)
Extended Digipak - 3 tracks - 43:19

Release date: December 16th 2013

Mastered By Denis Blackham at Skye Mastering
Artwork and photography by Jon Wozencroft

Track listing:

1. Londinium
2. Coins and Bones
3. Twenty Four Seven

BJ Nilsen (b,1975 Sweden) Is a sound and recording artist. His work is based on the sound of nature and its effect on humans. He primarily uses field recordings and electronic composition as a working method. He has worked for film, television, theatre, dance and as sound designer. His newest album presented here is “Eye Of The Microphone” [Touch # TO:95, 2013] - a somewhat surreal audio rendition of the sounds of The City of London. Currently also working on The Acoustic City, a book publication with CD, co-edited with Matthew Gandy, [2014, JOVIS Verlag, Berlin].

Track notes:

Recorded and Mixed in London 2012 – 2013

++ To stroll properly, one should not have any particular plans ++ 

In 2012 I received a scholarship from the Leverhulme Trust for a one-year Artist in Residency at the UCL Urban Laboratory in London, to introduce sound as an art practice to urban scholars and students. As part of my research I decided to dérive the city. 

I spent full days and sometimes nights sweeping the streets and its interiors for sound - walking and listening with no route or intention. A city without sound does not exist. Every location, passageway, alley, road, park, and pub contains its own world of isolated sound events and patterns - the sound of a shopping bag caught by the wind on the asphalt of a busy street when a bus passes by. What seems to be merely a bus is also a cacophony of sounds, a sound world in itself: hydraulics, breaks, interior noise, honking, public announcements, humans, rolling bottles, cell phones, mp3 players. The rattle of an air-conditioning unit in an old pub toilet gradually develops its broken down sound over many years, creating a raga for it own demise. Nobody seems to hear it. Is it there? The choice of sound varies; it's a personal selection, some sounds made it into this composition, many hours of recording didn’t. 

Sound composition can alter space and time and transform a specific location and experience into an imaginary world.

1. Londonium.

Standing on Francis Street behind Victoria Station, it is a sunny spring afternoon and the air is crisp. For a location so central it is a quiet street, for about ten seconds… As the bells of a nearby church in the Diocese Of Westminster start to chime I press record. They merge into a vehicle and then into a woman on a bike, and as she breaks to make a turn, in the distance a cellphone rings. All the time a train engine has been idle.

London pulls you towards water. You are bound to reach the river at some point. On a grey and foggy afternoon, I reached the bank of the Thames during low tide. There, the sand, algae, mud, and brick buildings isolated the acoustics revealing great detail. An almost interior space, surrounded by old shoes, pieces of porcelain, half a chair, bones, bricks, wood structures, and washed up electronics, it felt like looking into the future as well as the past. To the left there were the distant smudged out towers of Canary Wharf, and to the right Tower Bridge completely shrouded in fog. The drones of the clippers on the river suddenly sounded electronic, the occasional vague beep of metal detectors belonging to coin hunters tracing our past. A chainsaw starts up from one of the workshops nearby. Back in the studio, listening, a surreal city begins to unfold. 

2. Coins and Bones.

Without the multi-sensory impressions and visual synchronisation at the very present moment of recording, certain memories and perceptions seem to grow stronger. 

Maybe a pure field recording is not the most accurate representation of a place.

3. Twenty Four Seven.

Where does the city begin? 

We took the East Anglia Line from London Liverpool Street only a 30 minute ride away and we arrived at Cheshunt Station and stepped into Lee Valley. 

It is a vast area of water, grass, reed bed, and woodlands, and lots of wildlife. The weather is perfect, a clear and warm summer day. Here, the sound of distant trains going back into the city served as a backdrop together with overhead airplanes. As we are sitting on a small grass patch by a large pond, ducks, swans and coots suddenly notice us, expecting some food. We gave them some tiny pieces of bread. The swans took over and started to fight. After a long track we end up by Regents Canal and The Kingsland Basin Redevelopment site.

Twenty four seven doesn’t exist here. It’s a microclimate of nuances and the personal mind of getting up early to make some recordings. 

A microphone is both a lark and a night owl.

Cover Photography

St. Paul’s as seen from the London Eye. Cranes rebuilding the City – a highchair for birdsong…

Reviews:

Chain D.L.K. (USA)) :

As you could easily guess from the title, which obviously refers to the notorious Lodon Eye, the giant Ferris wheel on the South Bank of Thames River, and the cover artwork, a panoramic snapshot taken from one capsule of that popular structure, the intrusive microphone by imaginative Swedish sound artist Benny Jonas Nilsen lingered on London this time, but if you have already experienced some works by BJ Nilsen, you should know that you cannot expect just a sterilized collection of field recordings. On this occasion, you could imagine that rather than the classical animal comparison to a dead cat from the slang name of the synthetic fur which covers the outer shell in order to reduce wind noise, his beloved stereophonic microphone could have turned into a bird (a lark or sometimes a night owl), which flutter about London to see and listen the jungle of sounds and noises the English capital everlastingly offers. Just after BJ Nilsen received a scholarship from the Leverhulme Trust for a one-year Artist in Residency at the UCL Urban Laboratory in London for having introduced sound as an art practice to urban scholars and students, he begun to grab sounds from the streets and its interiors while wandering during daytime and sometimes night-time, but after the "organization" of all these recordings, you could follow them as the imaginary migration of the above-mentioned bird from the heart of the financial City and Thames banks towards peripheral places outside metropolitan areas, so that whereas the opening track "Londinium" mainly detected the city centre - the record button got pressed after the bells of a church in the Diocese of Westminster started to chime - and the gradual movement towards river waters, whose barrier of algae, mud, sand and brick buildings unveiled an almost archeological mine of sound sources such as pieces of porcelain, broken chairs, bones, bricks and old shoes, the final "Twenty Four Seven" sounds like mirroring the illusory incessant movement of urban life which kept on casting its signals into a natural context that manages to derail the listening experience into a sort of unexpected catharsis. The ability of this sound artist in organizing field recordings till the transducing of astonishing soundscapes stick into emotional and spellbinding dimensions in the more sinister median track "Coins and Bones", which sounds like validating the fact that field recordings are often not sufficient for a complete representation of a place withouth the filtering of perception, memories and their processing.


Headphone Commute (UK):

I first heard BJ Nilsen’s music as Morthound, a deadly serious ambient project that was an early highlight of Sweden’s death-ambient Cold Meat Industry label in the early 90s. Nilsen was only a teenager when he worked on those albums, followed by a more sublime, less horror-tinged minimal drone project, Hazard. Since working under his own name, I haven’t kept up much with Nilsen’s output (his solo releases put out mostly by Touch), and the Eye of the Microphone seems as good a place as any to start.

There is still an emphasis on environment, but rather than the desolate dronescapes of Hazard, Eye of the Microphone falls closer in line with Chris Watson’s hyperrealism field recordings, letting his microphone document his travels through England. “A city without sound does not exist,” writes Nilsen in the press release for the album. His goal was to tirelessly document its streets, sights, and sounds using his reliable microphone, with no real emphasis on route or destination. Rather, Nilsen aims to simply log the aural experience of his surroundings, wherever they may take him. As a result, the three pieces on Eye of the Microphone vary, though they have that unifying tactical thread.

“Sound composition can alter space and time and transform a specific location and experience into an imaginary world.”

My favorite track might be the first one. “Londonium” consists largely of ambient street sounds, the mundane drone of everyday urban life. That I first really listened to this album while out and about walking on the street greatly enhanced the experience. Nilsen juxtaposes the drones of modern living — river boats, a far-off chainsaw — with natural sounds of the Thames and Canary Wharf. It ends with a disorienting blitz of manipulated sound before proceeding into the other tracks. On second track “Coins and Bones,” Nilsen blends field recordings with more manipulated, tense drones, evolving the music into something much greater a role than composite observer.

A Closer Listen (USA):

Does a field recording have to sound like its subject in order to be authentic? BJ Nilsen ponders this question and concludes that “a pure field recording is not the most accurate representation of a place”. As an artist-in-residency in London, he spent many hours walking and capturing the sounds of the city. And yet when it came time to present these sounds, he chose to re-present them, molding them into a compact shape and shuffling impressions to create something new: an imaginary city called Londonium. What sounds like a walk may be a series of walks; what sounds like a source may be a combination of sources. Of course, this is what sound artists do: they attempt to reflect their locations through symbols rather than aural mirrors. When successful, their new creations seem more real than reality, in the manner of poems.

Local residents may recognize some of the specific sounds: the bells of a Westminster Church, the pings of metal detectors by the Thames. Nilsen’s concerns, however, lie in the underexposed. He’s less interested in the wink of recognition than in the promotion of the underheard. If sounds were people, he’d be the champion of the underdog. Nilsen’s Londonium is hidden in the cracks and crannies of old London, beneath the surface of drying rivers, behind the clearer, more noticeable noises. The lesson to his students is simple: don’t go for the obvious.

In “Coins and Bones”, the edges grow blurred. The piece sounds at times like a drone work, thanks to the accumulation of sounds. But in a city, everything can sound like a drone, as constant din can produce an aural or philosophical tinnitus. The trick is sorting it out, filtering the pink noise from the white. As a more “musical” work, the track references Nilsen’s Fade to White album, which traveled further into cacophony yet investigated similar concepts. As if to balance the impression, Nilsen closes with the clearly natural “Twenty Four Seven”, a reflection of the woodlands and wildlife of Lee Valley. The triptych has traveled far afield: from what is heard, to what is sensed, to what is seldom noticed. Londonium may not have existed before, but it does now. [Richard Allen]

Carnage (Italy):

Lo svedese BJNilsen è un artista sonoro. Si è sempre concentrato sui suoni della natura e sui loro effetti sull'uomo. Usando field recording e composizioni elettroniche. Il suo ultimo disco Eye Of The Microphone è la resa dei suoi della città di Londra. Illustrando alle scolaresche il suo progetto di arte sonora come pratica, Nilsen decide di spingersi fino ai confini della città, girando per strade, passaggi, interni, di giorno e di notte. Ogni luogo rivela un proprio mondo di suoni: "Quello che sembra un bus è anche la cacofonia di suoni, un mondo sonoro in sé: idrauliche, freni, rumori interni, annunci, uomini, bottiglie che rotolano, cellulari, lettori mp3. (…) La scelta di suoni varia; è una selezione personale, alcuni suoni sono entrati a far parte della composizione, molte altre ore di registrazione no.

Tre tracce che costruiscono una città multisfaccettata, costituita da luci e ombre, da terra e acqua. Londra diventa un immenso auditorium in cui l'orchestra – i cittadini, i viventi – interpretano la partitura: "Dieci secondi di silenzio… Come iniziano a suonare le campane della chiesa di Westminster io premo il tasto di avvio della registrazione. Si confondono con un veicolo che passa, e poi con una donna in bicicletta, e come quest'ultima frena, si sente un cellulare che suona". Un'esperienza che diventa mezzo di espressione, come la lunga esplorazione delle rive del Tamigi – rumori di alghe, fango, e palazzi isolati che rivelano dettagli acustici non indifferenti. ma il fine ultimo di Nilsen non vuole essere esclusivamente il suono, ma una modificazione di Spazio/tempo. Lo si evince dal titolo dell'ultima traccia Twenty Four Seven - un breve viaggio a Lee Valley, Cheshunt Station -. Nilsen è immerso nell'erba tra cigni, piante e molta natura. I giorni della settimana, il tempo scandito viene messo da parte: sarebbe sbagliato adattare un tempo urbano ad un'altra dimensione.

Nilsen, armato di pazienza, produce questo splendido disco con una capacità narrativa straordinaria, sempre in movimento, disegnando e progettando spazi prospettici alterati dalla percezione del tempo, del suono. Opere così insegnano ad ascoltare. E io ho sempre voglia di imparare. Per una bella terapia intensiva cliccate qui e immergetevi per pochi minuti in una Londra senza tempo, costruita esclusivamente dal vostro orecchio. [Riccardo Gorone]

Nutida (Sweden):

På ”The eye of the microphone” greppar den svenske ljudkonstnären Benny Nilsen det ljudliga London. Han flanerar, närlyssnar och spelar in för att sedan redigera och delvis manipulera ljuden och sätta ihop dem till kompositioner. Hans förmåga att lyfta fram ljudande miljöer är oomtvistad och hans långa erfarenhet har gett honom ett delikat sinne för detaljer. Något som är tydligt på denna nya cd. På den ena sidan står stadens ljudliga undervegetation, de abstrakta ljuden vi vanligtvis knappt uppfattar eller hör som brus. På den andra det mycket konkreta, som fåglar vid en damm en halvtimme utanför London.

”Londinium” är skivans starkaste spår. Blandningen av kyrkklockor, ljudet av en buss, röster på distans, Themsen och långa atmosfäriska klanger eggar fantasin. Här får Nilsen fram en givande spänning mellan det odefinierade och det tydliga. En spänning som faktiskt förstärks om man lyckas låta bli att tolka klangerna och istället hör dem som en form av urbant soundtrack. ”Coins and bones” är mer surrealistisk; långa ljud tvinnas långsamt runt en osynlig axel och möter detaljer på sin väg. Här använder Nilsen de utdragna ljuden bättre än på ”Twenty four seven”. Den sistnämnda utvecklar sig till något man visserligen kan förlora sig i för en stund, men konceptet med ljudstrålar i långsam förändring tappar lite av sin spänning eftersom så många använder det. Men kontrasten till det ljudliga besöket vid dammen jag nämner inledningsvis är ändå givande.

Badly trans.:

On "The eye of the microphone" grasps the Swedish sound artist Benny Nilsen it loud London. He strolls, närlyssnar and recording and then edit and partially manipulate the sounds and put them together into compositions. His ability to highlight sonic environments is undisputed and his long experience has given him a delicate attention to detail. Something that is evident on this new CD. On one side stands the city's noisy undergrowth, the abstract sounds we usually barely perceive or hear that noise. On the other it is very concrete, like birds in a pond an hour outside London.

"Londinium" is the disc's strongest tracks. The mixture of church bells, the sound of a bus, voices at a distance, the Thames and the long atmospheric sounds edges imagination. Here Nilsen produced a fruitful tension between the undefined and the clear. A voltage which actually enhanced if they succeed fail to interpret the sounds and instead hear them as a form of urban soundtrack. "Coins and bones" is more surreal; lengthy audio twisted slowly around an invisible axis and encounter details on its way. It uses Nilsen protracted sounds better than the "Twenty four seven". The latter develops into something you certainly can lose yourself in for a while, but the concept of sound beams in slow change lose some of its excitement since so many people use it. But the contrast to the noisy visit to the dam I mention initially is still rewarding.

Electronique (Italy):

L’occhio del microfono spoglia la città invisibile di BJ Nilsen e la posiziona nuda davanti allo sguardo dei suoi spettatori.
Lo svedese, scegliendo come sua musa Londra, tramite l’utilizzo dei field recording ed una dettagliata composizione elettronica di elementi, dà vita ad un richiamo alla responsabilità personale, un gong che attira l’attenzione del genere umano affinchè prenda coscienza della realtà nella quale gli uomini spesso e facilmente sono vittime di passioni che non riescono a comprendere. Un progetto in cui si susseguono tre momenti in particolare riguardo la realtà della natura, della posizione dell’uomo rispetto ad essa e delle forze ingovernabili che governano la città.

In "Londonium" il suo esperimento prende vita, nel centro della metropoli inglese dove raccoglie oltre ad una infinità di campionature di suoni durante il giorno e la notte, anche gran parte di quelle che sono le esperienze della modernizzazione, tentando di farle dialogare in uno spazio facilmente attaccabile, giustificando, in veste di romantico, quasi ogni singolo elemento, culla di quel suono, che seleziona.

Audaci tentativi di fusione tra dettagli come il suono del campanile di una chiesa nella diocesi della neoromanica Westminster, sovrapposti al tratto rugoso dello spostamento dei veicoli o all’ acustica degli edifici in mattoni lungo il Tamigi, lo portano alla realizzazione di strutture armoniose di suoni forgiate e cesellate in maniera microscopica con l’utilizzo di equalizzatori in studio.
I ricordi e le percezioni diventano sempre più nitidi in Nilsen tanto che in "Coins and Bones" e "Twenty Four Seven", incuriosito completa la sua ricerca spostandosi nella Lee Valley territorio esterno dal quale orizzonte è possibile rintracciare dove comincia la città.

Touch records accoglie l’ossessività del produttore nel captare e raccogliere tutto ciò che intorno ad esso si presenta come stupore, ne fa una della sue più spiccate peculiarità, un elogio continuo non dotato necessariamente di criterio, un’ammirazione che tende a rimanere intrappolata in un luogo in cui la propensione degli ascoltatori è quella di abbandonare lentamente la presa.

Una composizione non solo un’addizione di suoni della città e per quanto le sue parti individuali appaiono come il risultato di eccezionali invenzioni lucidamente pianificate dall’ intelligenza umana, il risultato della loro somma non varia nel dipingere il termine di una sfera “illuminata”. Un nebuloso impero di indistinzione che si presenta come una grandiosa apoteosi, ma l’effetto della sua essenza è una vacuità nel tempo logorante.

Loop (Italy):

BJ Nilsen is a Swedish sound and recording artist who works with sound of nature and its effects on humans. He mainly uses field recordings and electronic composition. He has worked for film, television, theatre, dance and sound designer. Since 2004 has been publishing on labels such as Ash International, Touch (and others) and collaborated with Philip Jeck, Chris Watson and recently did with Alan Courtis and in groups like Stilluppsteypa, among others. Nilsen states that the sounds of the urban environment produce sound events, patterns, mechanical rhythms and drones. Sound composition can alter time and space, transforming a specific location in an imaginary world. What I understand is to be called soundscapes. "Eye Of the Microphone" consists of three long tracks where Nilsen recorded field recordings in the city of London. In 'Londinium', the first track, Nilsen explores bank of the River Thames and its surroundings. Sounds of water and other objects can be appreciate in this recording. On "Coins and Bones" clanking, mechanical ('tube' in motion) and electric noises deploy while listening to a haunting and spooky drone unfolds as a backdrop. "Twenty Four Seven" takes us to a natural environment in the middle of the city, this is Lee Valley a vast area with lots of water and grass and wildlife where live different types of birds. In the distance the sound of trains and airplanes emerges. [Guillermo Escudero]

VITAL (Netherlands):

Recently BJ Nilsen released his collaborative album with Anla Courtis, exploring the beautiful, yet small city of Nijmegen, here he is in solo mode exploring London. As part of a scholarship he was in that city to 'introduce sound as an art practice to urban scholars and students', and what better than to explore, sound wise that is, the city you are in? There are three pieces here, one of which is more or less about the Thames, running through the city. That's the opening piece and perhaps the most 'telling' piece of the three. In the other two its more difficult to find a common theme. It's likewise not easy to tell what it is that Nilsen does with these recordings. My best guess is that he mixes these together, that it's likely there is some sort of equalization used, but how about any sort of treatment? That's something I don't know. Certainly in 'Twenty Four Seven' there seems to be some sort shimmering melodic touch. In 'Coins And Bones' it seems that he collected all the drones from the urban environment (lifts, shafts etc) together and superimposes them into a musical drone pieces that works very well. That could be from some processed field recording, but perhaps as easily Nilsen walked in a shopping mall and picked this up? Hard to say. Like with his collaborative release with Courtis, the music here is at times quite soft so you need to turn up the volume quite a bit, which makes that the loudest parts blast in with fine power. These three pieces are distinctly different, but sum up various aspects of the city quite well. It's not a pure documentation of field recordings, but a cleverly made soundscape. A true delight to hear, a work by one of the best. [FdW]

Nordische Musik (Germany):

Vielseitige Collagen aus »Field Recordings« (gesammelten Tonaufnahmen von Geräuschen und Alltagsklängen) bilden den Großteil der Diskografie des Schweden Benny Nilsen (*1975). Beim jüngst dreißig Jahre alt gewordenen Label Touch befindet er sich in bester Gesellschaft mit einigen der besten in diesem Genre, den Norwegern Jana Winderen oder Geir »Biosphere« Jenssen etwa, dem Exil-Deutschen Thomas Köner oder dem britischen Altmeister Chris Watson. Im Grenzbereich zwischen Musique Concrète und flirrendem Ambient bewegt sich Nilsens London-Album »EYE OF THE MICROPHONE«, mit drei langen, komplex geschichteten Kompositionen über 45 Minuten.

Einerseits lädt Nilsen uns hier ein zu Spaziergängen durch die Großstadt, Straßen-, Schienen- und Luftverkehr, Wind und Wetter, vereinzelte Vögel am Wasser und multilinguale Einwohner inklusive. Andererseits aber gewinnen die Klangelemente ein neues Eigenleben als Motive und Material innerhalb surrealer Reisen in eine Art Parallelwelt, die Nilsen »Londonium« nennt. Denn natürlich belässt er es nicht dabei, die (Um-)Welt originalgetreu nachzubauen, sondern setzt die Aufnahmen in unerwartete Beziehungen und in die Nachbarschaft synthetischer Sounds. Die stärksten Momente gelingen BJ Nilsen immer dann, wenn sich scheinbar unvereinbare Klänge zu einem Drone-Fluss verbinden und man eingeladen wird, sehr genau hinzuhören — natürlich am besten über Kopfhörer, es sei denn, man lebt selbst in einem Tonstudio. [ijb]

kindamuzik (Netherlands):

Rondwandelen door een stad doe je het best zonder vooropgezet plan. Dat vindt althans geluidskunstenaar BJ Nilsen. In zijn werk legt hij de nadruk op geluiden van stad en natuur en het effect daarvan op de mens. Daartoe vermengt hij veldopnames en elektronische compositie. Eén blik op het omslag van The Eye of the Microphone en je weet genoeg: Nilsen ging voor dit album met microfoon en opnameapparaat op zak uit wandelen in Londen.

Een urbane omgeving vat je niet in field recordings alleen. Volgens Nilsen is daar meer voor nodig: een gevoel voor geluidsgebeurtenissen, mechanische ritmiek en (achtergrond)ruis die de vorm van een altijd aanwezige al dan niet statische drone kan aannemen. Nilsen componeert de stad. Immers, in zijn eigen woorden: "Geluidcompositie kan ruimte en tijd veranderen en een specifieke locatie en ervaring transformeren in een wereld vol verbeelding."

Met The Invisible City en The Short Night ging Nilsen diep in op psycho-geogragisch geluid in een luisterervaring die evenveel balanceerde tussen natuur en mensgemaakt als tussen 'gevonden werkelijk geluid' en samples, akoestische instrumenten of synthesizers. The Eye of the Microphone plaatst alleen de microfoon zelf centraal.
Nilsen is zich steeds bewust van het feit dat zonder de veelheid aan indrukken van een moment waarop hij opneemt, sommige herinneringen en ervaringen die bovenkomen bij het horen van de opname sterker lijken te worden. Die vergroot hij uit door uren aan materiaal te mixen en het te componeren tot narratieven, want een pure veldopname is voor Nilsen niet per se de beste representatie van een locatie.

The Eye of the Microphone is geen sonische (af)spiegeling, maar een drievoudig verslag van een persoonlijk urbaan microklimaat vol nuance van iemand die vroeg opstond en tot laat rondliep door een stad die wij kennen als Londen en zijn zintuigen de kost gaf. Dit is een schitterend drieluik dat op alle fronten de handtekening van BJ Nilsen draagt, meer dan de indruk van deze werkelijke stad. Met de realiteit als bouwstenen construeert Nilsen een stad van herinnering en verbeelding. In een oceaan van duizenden en duizenden verhalen van de stad is dit zijn souvenir in impressies. [Sven Schlijper]

monsieur délire (France):

L’oeil du microphone, un titre parfait pour ce nouveau disque de field recording de BJ Nilsen. Trois pièces réalisées pendant une résidence de création à Londres. Trois pièces qui nous transportent en ville, sur le bord de la Tamise et aux limites de Londres, là où la nature reprend ses droits. Nilsen compose avec ses enregistrements de terrain, plus que Chris Watson, jouant à nous dépayser, à nous délocaliser, à transfigurer la réalité des lieux. Un disque très réussi, particulièrement “Londinium” et sa finale saisissante.

The eye of the microphone, what a perfect title for this new CD of field recordings by BJ Nilsen. Three pieces realized while on an artist’s residency in London. Three pieces that take us through the city, near the river, and to the outskirts where nature becomes more present. Nilsen composes with his field recordings – more so than Chris Watson – using effects of delocalization to transfigure the reality of his locations. A very successful record, especially “Londinium” and its striking finale. [François Couture]

Ondarock (Italy):

Dopo gli ennesimi dischi collaborativi (“Góða Nótt” con Stillupsteypa e “Nijmegen Pulse” con Alan Courtis; Korm Plastics, 2013) il sound artist svedese Benny Jonas Nilsen ritorna all’opera maggiore - la quarta se si eccettua l’attività con gli altri moniker Morthound e Tape Decay - con i tre vasti arazzi elettroacustici di “Eye Of The Microphone”.

Il primo, “Londinium” (10 minuti), fa emergere da brusii indistinti solo una vibrazione statica di sottofondo, a sublimarsi con uno sciabordare d'onde. “Coins and Bones”, 17 minuti, però va oltre i luoghi comuni della musica elettroacustica: dapprima stridori vanno in combustione lanciando una silenziosissima ode ambientale; nella seconda parte una mesta sonata fantasma per toni vitrei è tartassata da un minaccioso contrappunto non-armonico fino a sfumare nei suoni di tutti i giorni. Almeno il procedimento evoca i Popol Vuh di “In Den Garten Pharaos” e i “Sonic Seasonings” di Wendy Carlos.

Un allungato senso di mistero di volatili e acqua introduce “Twenty Four Seven” (14 minuti). Dopo ben sei minuti attacca la “musica”, come dei droni pigolanti sovrastati da una forza sovrannaturale, che poi muta in serena contemplazione.

Da un grande catalogo di suoni, tutti catturati girellando per Londra (dove pure insegna agli alunni il sound art e il sound design), un disco basato su un’idea di sinestesia: campionare rumori e toni in ogni dove e ricomporli per ricreare acusticamente la città, il corredo fonico come impalcatura della realtà metropolitana. E’ un esperimento - risaputo anche perché già vagliato nel precedente “The Invisible City” - riuscito a metà, spesso ristagnante in un asettico naturalismo. Di contro la sua abilità a lasciar decantare e trasfigurare le sorgenti sonore come fossero reazioni chimiche si esprime con qualità persino universali. Progetto ad ampio raggio, continuato ed esteso nell’audiolibro “The Acoustic City” (Jovis Verlag, 2014).

His Voice (Czeckia):

Letos osmatřicetiletého soundartistu Bennyho Jonase Nilsena není třeba pravidelným čtenářům HISVoice představovat. Jako kmenový člen labelu Touch se už před lety vyprofiloval v univerzálního lapače field recordings, s nimiž poté nakládá na sto způsobů. Tentokrát se se Švédem podíváme na tři čtvrtě hodiny do Londýna. Benny zde před dvěma roky získal uměleckou rezidenci na prestižní University College London, přednášel místním studentům o zvuku a anglická metropole mu dala ideální prostor jeho variabilitu předvést v celé své kráse. BJ strávil celé dny, a někdy i noci, procházením ulicemi a interiéry jednotlivých budov. Všude zde nahrával „londýnské zvukové prostředí“.

Město bez zvuku neexistuje. To si palčivě uvědomují především lidé okolo velkých dopravních uzlů. Zvukové pozadí má ale každý kout, chodba, alej, silnice, parkoviště nebo hospoda a každé místo se pyšní unikátním zvukovým světem. Chronický lovec Nilsen se na konci pobytu začal probírat desítkami hodin, často nazdařbůh posbíraných nahrávek a začal svojí tradiční kolážovací práci, tentokrát věnovanou svému dočasnému bydlišti.

1. Londonium: Naši procházku načneme na Francis Street v blízkosti Victoria Station. Je slunné jarní odpoledne, svěží vzduch a vzduchem se nese vyzvánění zvonů. Záznam nás pomalu přesune k vodě a zde, se zvuky pomalu se nesoucí na vlnící Temži, zůstaneme v rozjímání až do konce kompozice.

2 . Coins and Bones: Tichá zamyšlená nálada je přerušena industriálním hlukovým nátlakem. Z procházky po nábřeží se dostáváme do plně automatizované továrny/elektrárny, kde v pravidelném rytmu pracují neznámé stroje či generátory. I takový je evidentně současný Londýn,

3 . Twenty Four Seven: Po odlidštěném průmyslovém zážitku nás BJ Nilsen vezme v poslední čtvrthodině do zázemí Londýna, přírodní oázy Lee Valley. Začínáme procházkou okolo velkých jezer, počasí je stále slunné, letní. Ovšem s přibývajícími minutami jako bychom se vraceli nazpátek do centra. Křik racků se mísí s hlukem startujících letadel, veškeré zvuky začínají splývat dohromady a na konci se vynoříme u frekventované železniční tratě v blízkosti Regents kanálu kde pozorujeme sanaci Kingslandského zálivu.

BJ Nilsen je mistr zvukových pohlednic. Tu londýnskou evidentně měl čas pečlivě připravit. Přeci jen, více než roční stáž mu dala možnost protlouct se Londýnem více do hloubky. Až na výjimky se vystříhal záznamů přímé činnosti člověka, která má ostatně v autorových kolážích dlouhodobě druhotnou roli. Jak sám Benny přiznává, field recording má pozitivní funkci v jeho životě v tom, že ho nutí brzy vstávat. Není divu, že motto alba je: „mikrofon je jak ranní ptáče, tak noční sova“. [ Pavel Zelinka]

Trebuchet (UK):

BJ Nilsen is a Swedish artist long associated with the Touch label, who blends electronics and field recordings in a distinctive way.

Here he takes on the sounds of The City of London and its outskirts. In his own words:
“A city without sound does not exist. Every location, passageway, alley, road, park, and pub contains its own world of isolated sound events and patterns – the sound of a shopping bag caught by the wind on the asphalt of a busy street when a bus passes by.

What seems to be merely a bus is also a cacophony of sounds, a sound world in itself: hydraulics, brakes, interior noise, honking, public announcements, humans, rolling bottles, cell phones, mp3 players. The rattle of an airconditioning unit in an old pub toilet gradually develops its broken down sound over many years, creating a raga for it own demise. Nobody seems to hear it.”

‘Londinium’ itself is suitably dark and intense. The work may be the result of intimacy with the city, but is far from a simplistically affirmative sound-touristic celebration of it. In fact, at times Nilsen conjures a tone picture of a Satanic London that Blake might have recognised.

The sounds of water, planes and traffic drones, merge into an ominous and malevolent sonic tide with its own strange logic that ends with some very raw sounds and abrupt cuts. The track seems like a highly appropriate forensic documentation of the tides of corruption and power that flood out from the neo-feudal capital.

‘Coins and Bones’ is a much colder and more ethereal piece, less threatening but still full of uneasy detail. It’s a sonic smog of microwave buzzes and ethereal pollution with increasingly specific and unprocessed sounds and voices cutting through in the last section.

The ironically-titled ‘Twenty Four Seven’ is not based in London but assembled from recordings taken in the Lea Valley around Cheshunt. Unlike the other pieces, here the field recordings are less processed and organised. The recording process is not always concealed or smoothed over and birdsong, water and a passing small plane all feature. In the more processed sections a deep electronic process emerges, filled by Solaris-like drones with submerged melodic elements that create a chorus of powerlines and electronic birdsong.

This is a careful and well-assembled album that offers memorable real and imaginary sound portraits of the city, blurring the lines between them and stimulating the sonic imagination. “Back in the studio, listening, a surreal city begins to unfold.”

breakaplate (UK):

What actually has been left that hasn’t been a musical theme? BJ Nilsen, one of the contemporary experimenters who use external sounds, comes up with an answer and defines a musical theme as something that motivates him expressively: wandering. In his new release under Touch label he rambles in the streets of London recording anything that breaks the ever nonexistent silence of a big city. With the appropriate tools and sensors he transforms a universe which appears dumb at first into regular compositions that may not contain notes but they pour out atmosphere, order and richness in the sounds, something that can be called music.

In “Londinium” for example, the experimenter’s attention is caught by the slightest things as he goes towards the Thames banks where a pier bears a chaotic bursting of sounds. In “Coins & Bones” he himself wonders if even that kind of environment recording is capable of attributing psychogeographically the identity of that place. In “Twenty Four Seven” he goes out of the city limits and tries to perceive it as a place that nature is surrounding affectionately yet mystically. All these as he tries to produce an electronic array of sounds that asks questions by sharpening the mind. In Eye Of The Microphone these questions bear new ones more interesting. The intention of their creator is accomplished. [Bob Coltrane]

Black (Belgium):

Wenn mir jemand Anfang der 90er gesagt hätte, Benny Nilsen wäre rund 20 Jahre später ein angesehener Experimental-Klang-Forscher, der selbst im Feuilleton Erwähnung findet, hätte ich mit dem Finger an die Stirn getippt. Zu jener Zeit grummelte er gerade mit seinem Projekt MORTHOND in dunklen Steinzeit-Höhlen herum bzw. hatte die Ehre, die überhaupt erste CD-Veröffentlichung auf Cold Meat Industry zu tätigen. Kurz darauf wurde der Name in MORTHOUND variiert und Benny Nilsen streifte mit den zwei folgenden Alben kurz DEAD CAN DANCE ähnlichen Gothic Kitsch und sogar Industrial Metal. Danach trennte sich sein Weg von dem schwedischen Kult-Label (welches übrigens gerade offiziell zu Grabe getragen wurde) und mit seinen neuem Projekt HAZARD zog er in die Welt hinaus. Der Sound war jetzt schon deutlich experimenteller, kälter wie abstrakter geworden und über die Stationen Malignant Records und Ash International landete er schließlich beim renommierten Touch-Label. Seit dem firmiert er unter BJ NILSEN und neben vielbeachteten Kollaborationen (JANITOR, STILLUPPSTEYPA, EVIL MADNESS) finden vor allem seine Fieldrecording-Arbeiten im Stile des legendären Chris Watson große Reputation. Mit seinem letzten Album „The Invisible City“ war er ja schon auf der Suche nach dem „geheimen“ Sound diverser Großstädte und auf dem neuestes Werk erforscht er diesen ausschließlich in London. Mit „Eye Of The Microphone“ könnte dieses nicht besser betitelt sein und Benny Nilsen addiert + verdichtet hier die Aufnahmen, welche über ein ganzes Jahr auf seinen akustischen Streifzug durch die britischen Metropole entstanden sind. Wer sich darauf einlässt, bei dem werden die Sinne regelrecht geschärft und laufen im Kopfkino dazu richtige Geschichten ab. Warum allerdings vieles davon eher nach brummenden Generatoren im Heizungskeller bzw. dem Soundtrack zu „Eraserhead“ klingt… findet es einfach selbst heraus! Additional zu „Eye Of The Microphone“ erscheint übrigens dieses Jahr im Berliner Architektur-Verlag Jovis noch das Buch „The Acoustic City“, welches der Frage nachgeht, auf welche Weise der Klang das Leben in der Stadt formt und zu dem BJ NILSEN eine CD beisteuern wird. PS: Mir ist auch gerade eingefallen, dass Benny Nilsens ehemaliger Cold Meat Industry-Label-Kollege Mikael Stravöstrand (ARCHON SATANI, INANNA) eine ähnliche Entwicklung genommen hat, jedoch inzwischen im Techno-Genre recht erfolgreich ist. Das sind Geschichten, wie sie nur das Leben schreiben kann! [Marco Fiebag]

18/20

BJ Nilsen ist ein 1975 in Schweden geborener Field Recording Artist.
Mit Eye of the Microphone

Für das Stück “Londinium“ nahm er Geräusche an Victoria Station auf.
Aso tauchen unter dunklen elektronischen Drones Geräusche einer Kirche, Zischen von Zügen und andere typische Geräusche auf. Stimmgewirr vermischt sich mit klappenden Türen unter den dunklen Sound. Wasserplätschern, Regengeräusche lassen diesen Droneartigen Einstieg ausklingen.

“Coins and Bones“ hat keinen örtlichen Bezug.

Hier kommen noch die am meisten als möglicherweise störend empfundenen Geräusche vor. Auch dieser Track besteht jedoch aus langgezogenen, kreisenden elektronischen Drones die eine schwebende, unheimliche und doch träumerische Kulisse bilden.

“Twenty Four Seven“ benutzt Aufnahmen die an der East Anglia Line der Londoner Liverpool Street aufgenommen wurden. Vogelgeräusche, Wasserplätscher, Fußstapfen gehen langsam in einen ambiente, sphärischen elektronischen Sound über, die den Hörer umm alt.

Eine sehr entspannende, schwebende musikalische Untermalung die den Hörer in andere Sphären tragen und aufzeigen, wie interessant Field Recording Projekte sein können, wenn sie den reinen Klang mit sphärischen Sounds ummalen und so den Hörer auffordern, die Geräuschkulisse zu entdecken und nicht von Ihr abgeschreckt werden.

Und dieser letzte Satz gilt für das ganze Album. Wo viele Fieldrecording Alben am Ende doch im „Geräusch“ stecken bleiben, gelingt es Eye of the Microphone doch auch noch Musik zu sein. Empfehlenswert.

Freistil (Austria):

Nachdem die letzte Touch-CD, die ich besprechen durfte, mich auf eine heilige Insel in die Vergangenheit führte, ist nun das heutige London dran. Der Schwede BJ Nilson nähert sich der Stadt und ihrer Umgebung auf vielfältige Weise. Die CD im schön gestalteten Digipak und dem genialen Titel eye oft he microphone beginnt in der Stadt, in der BJ Nilson tage- und teilweise nächtelang umherlief und aufnahm, was ihn umgab. Wir hören Wasser, Kirchenglocken, ein Fahrrad und brummende Motoren. Mit geschlossenen Augen stellt sich ein schönes Kopfkino ein. Eine kleine Reise mit breitem Panorama. Die Aufnahmen sind mal mehr, mal weniger bearbeitet, sodass sie zu Kompositionen werden. Ist im ersten Track die Stadt noch klar erkennbar, wird es in coins and bones abstrakter. Eine Welt aus Flächen bringt mich in eine Fantasy-Stimmung. Zum Schluss landet man dann wieder auf der Straße. Twenty four seven stellt in den wirklich guten liner notes die Frage nach dem räumlichen Beginn der Stadt und ist so konsequenterweise vor ihr angesiedelt. In der Ferne knattern die Vorstadtzüge, und Wasservögel aller Art schnattern um die Wette, man hört sogar kämpfende Schwäne. Auch diese Nummer ist sehr gut aufgebaut und wirklich ein Hörerlebnis. [sim]

Le Son du Grisli (France):

Je n’ai pas le goût de Londres et je ne crois pas que cette promenade me fera changer d’avis. BJ Nilsen m’y a forcé, en cherchant à me rassurer : « sound composition can alter space and time and transform a specific location and experience into an imaginary world. » Très bien, alors, d'accord, va pour la balade… Tout commence à Victoria Station, par une après-midi de printemps. Ma pensée est ailleurs, sur le Paseo Del Prado par exemple, où, sur un banc, je lis le texte imprimé dans le livret du CD. Tout y est raconté… cette femme qui passe à vélo, cette eau courante, un train qui s'en va, cette eau galopante, un oiseau qui siffle, cette eau fuyante, des bruits de chantier…

L’ambient spectrale de BJ Nilsen charrie tout cela. Tous ces bruits, il les grossit à la loupe, recompose le plan de Londres, questionne les limites de la ville et même jusqu’à son existence. De Londres, il fait une métropole comme une autre, c’est à dire une métropole presque aussi belle qu’une autre. Mais aussi une ville qui parle du rêve déchiré de sa périphérie et de l’éternel regret de ceux qu’elle rejette. Je ne dirais pas que j’ai maintenant le goût de Londres. Mais j’ai aimé le regard sonore de Nilsen à son endroit. [Hector Cabrero]

Liability (France):

Chez BJ Nilsen, ses albums ne sont que rarement le fruit du hasard ou d'une envie spontanée. D'un autre côté, le suédois n'attends pas non plus qu'on lui passe commande pour qu'il daigne bouger le petit doigt. Ce disque est né de travaux fait dans le cadre d'une bourse qu'on lui a accordé en 2012 pour une résidence d'un an à Londres. Le but initial était pour Nilsen d'introduire le son comme une pratique de l'art auprès des étudiants mais ses recherches ont fatalement débordées et se sont axées sur la ville de Londres en elle même. Le thème de la ville ou de l'urbanité n'est pas nouveau chez BJ Nilsen. Déjà dans son précédent disque, The Invisible City, c'était le sujet central. Cela revient comme un leitmotiv chez lui. Les sons de la ville, celles que l'on fantasme, que l'on découvre sous un jour nouveau. Pour ce disque, il lui aura fallu déambuler de jour et de nuit pour collecter les sonorités nécessaires à la conception de Eye of the Microphone. Plus personne ne doute que BJ Nilsen est devenu un maître esthète du field recordings. Plus personne ne doute que ses constructions sonores sont d'une précision telle qu'on se sent littéralement happé par ces environnements fantasmagoriques qui, malgré tout, renvoient à des lieux précis. Des lieux que BJ Nilsen traverse ou explore, s'en imprègne et garde d'eux un souvenir auditif net et précis qui prend de l'ampleur lorsqu'il donne un nouveau corps à la matière qu'il a recueilli. Cela se passe toujours un peu ainsi avec le field recordings mais il serait assez hasardeux de penser que ce n'est qu'un tour de passe passe, une manière aisée de faire une musique à peu de frais. Oui, très hasardeux parce que le field recordings répond à un processus créatif qui reste complexe mais qui exclu tout cloisonnement. La musique, aussi abstraite soit-elle (et encore faudrait-il s'entendre sur ce que l'on bien comprendre par le terme abstrait) qui est faite par BJ Nilsen est tout aussi imaginative qu'elle renvoie à des images précises. L'accompagnement électronique de tout cela rajoute à la coloration particulière de l'ensemble qui mêle les éléments urbains que ceux plus organiques. Le tumulte urbain n'est pas ce qu'il y a de plus anormal. Il fait partie de la vie. Celui de Londres a son identité propre et c'est ce qui ressort de ce disque.



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BJNilsen - Eye of the Microphone


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Track 2:  Coins and Bones (extract)






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