BJNilsen - The Invisible City

CD - 8 tracks - 1:04:57

Plus bonus 320kbps .mp3 download - 1 track - 33:44

Jewel case with concertina insert

Artwork & Photography by Jon Wozencroft

Track listing:

1. Gravity Station

2. Phase and Amplitude

3. Scientia

4. Virtual Resistance

5. Meter Reading

6. Into Its Coloured Rays

7. Gradient

8. The Invisible City

**When you purchase this CD from the TouchShop you will receive as a free download: BJNilsen - Live at Café Oto, 7th December 2009. BJNilsen, along with Lawrence English and Philip Jeck, performed live at Atmospheres 3. This performance was recorded straight to digital from the main desk. In order to obtain your free download, click "Return to Touch" at end of PayPal process, and you will be given a download link**

About this release:

Recorded and Mixed during 2008-2009 in Berlin.

All tracks composed by BJNilsen using Tape Recorders, Computer, Organ, Acoustic Guitar, Electronics, Viola, Subharchord. Field recordings from; Sweden, Iceland, Norway, UK, Japan, Portugal and Germany. The Subharchord was recorded in the EAM Studio @ Adk, Berlin. Viola played by Hildur I. Gudnadottir.

Mastered by Denis Blackham at Skye Published by Touch Music [MCPS]

Track notes:

Gravity Station: subharchord, pitch-regulated viola, amplified chair dragged across floor, window shutters, grand piano, virtual Hammond organ, steel whistle coffeepot, acoustic and electric guitars, B&K Sine Random Generator Type 1024, birdsong through B&K Frequency Analyser Type 2107, Studer B67, various DSP

Phase and Amplitude: bumblebees, acoustic guitar, Studer B67, various DSP

Scientia: birdsong feed-backed and overdriven through B&K Type 2107, B&K Type 1024, subharchord, wing-flaps and bird eating, virtual Hammond organ, door slam, glockenspiel, Online Voice Decoder, Studer B67, various DSP

Virtual Resistance: subharchord, birds, acoustic and electric guitar feedback run through B&K Type 2107, cat climbing up door, airplane, virtual Hammond organ, broken Fishman Parametric EQ, bowed acoustic guitar, footsteps on snow, Studer B67, various DSP

Meter Reading: virtual Hammond organ, train, Studer B67 tape cut-ups, boat ramp, feedbacked Ferrograph Series 4, various DSP

Into Its Coloured Rays: wasps run through B&K Type 2107, piano, dead trees leaning against each other, crows, Studer B67, various DSP

Gradient: acoustic guitars, virtual Hammond organ, B&K Type 1024, Studer B67, various DSP

The Invisible City: amplified chair dragged across floor, feedbacked Ferrograph Series 4, rain, acoustic guitar feedback, tapeloops of found sounds, various DSP


Mapsadaisical (UK):

In recent years, Christian Fennesz and Philip Jeck may have stolen the critical plaudits for the Touch label, but arguably the label’s most vital artist is Stockholm’s BJ Nilsen. His diverse interests have led him into collaborate with the UK’s premier sound recordist Chris Watson, and with Icelandic experimentalists Stillupsteypa and cellist Hildur Gudnadottir. It is in his solo work, both on record and in concert, that he has brought all this together, fusing field recordings with electronics to create coherent works focusing on the interface between humans and nature. And, particularly in the case of new album The Invisible City, with technology.

Nilsen’s excellent 2006 album The Short Night took him on an Arctic exploration, and while The Invisible City features recordings from as far South as Portugal, it feels little warmer or lighter. For the most part, these are some particularly dark and icy atmospheres, and feel a further step removed from life, if not from civilisation. The images The Invisible City evokes for me are of the unseen networks which support the city: electrical grids, subterranean transport, and telecommunication channels. This may appear odd when you read that the sound sources appear to some extent to be typical Nilsen fare, including bees, wasps, birds and cats, but they too find themselves sucked into these conduits. None of those feature on opener “Gravity Station�?, which starts from near silence as “Front�? did on The Short Night. Layers of electrical hum and sine waves are topped with a phone line burble which builds in intensity, before exploding into scarred metallic fragments. I think this must be what it would feel like to send yourself by fax (note to self: don’t ever try this). The animals’ attempts at communication bleed into these networks, with the birdsong of “Scientia�? and “Virtual Resistance�? processed into digital unrecognisability. The latter glows with a harsh street-light buzz, as someone’s footsteps emerge from late night underground station rumble. The train batters on through into “Meter Reading“, the grind of metal-on-metal gradually wearing away at the piece to leave a silent black platform, before tearing off again through the rain on the propulsive title track, ending the album on a thrilling and fulfilling note. The Invisible City fades fast into the distance, into the air, and into the ground. I’ll be taking many return journeys.

Purchases of The Invisible City from the Touch shop come with a download of BJ Nilsen’s performance at Cafe Oto last month.

Brainwashed (USA):

Using unrecognizably tweaked field recordings of cats, crows, bees, wasps, boat ramps, and dead trees, the ever-reliable BJ Nilsen has crafted yet another complex and desolately beautiful suite of droning ambiance that subtly crackles and buzzes with life. The Invisible City might be the first great headphone album of 2010.

Sweden's BJ Nilsen has a surprisingly recognizable aesthetic for such an inherently faceless genre. Superficially, of course, all the central elements of contemporary electronic drone are here: a sustained and hypnotically shifting backbone, subterranean throbs, and a fluttering array of non-musical sounds dancing around it all. However, BJ is in a league by himself in regards to meticulousness, exactitude, and discipline. There is no clutter or bloat here, no laziness, and no attempt to use density to create an illusion of power and depth. Instead, Nilsen very starkly and crisply conveys exactly what he needs to and no more.

In lesser hands, that degree of calculation and artifice would probably result in a bloodless and clinical-sounding album. Actually, I suppose it is not completely unreasonable to describe this album as “clinical,�? but it would be totally missing the point. The Invisible City is a deliberately cold, lonely, and futuristic-sounding album. Rather than an invisible city, it much more aptly evokes a haunting and Lynchian tableau of an utterly empty city at night, traffic lights endlessly flickering purposelessly and swaying in the gentle wind. Given the organic and nature-themed roots of much of the album’s source material, that is a pretty perverse place to wind up.

The liner notes provide a very interesting inventory of the sounds used for each individual track, which makes for an engrossing listening experience. Given that most of the field recordings are digitized into oblivion, I found it fascinating to try to figure out when exactly I was hearing an “amplified chair dragged across floor�? or “dead trees leaning up against each other.�? On the rare occasions when the source material is clearly recognizable, it is usually employed to disquieting effect (particularly the snowy footsteps in “Virtual Resistance�?). The unnerving barrenness and alienation of the album creates a kind of vacuum that heightens the impact when anything recognizably human intrudes (and renders it vaguely sinister). Also, while there is generally not much overtly musical happening aside from occasional shimmering organ chords, vintage analog synthesizer fetishists will be thrilled to learn that Nilsen uses a subharchord for several tracks.

Those already familiar with BJ Nilsen’s work will not be surprised by much here, but they certainly will not be disappointed either. Nilsen has a very distinct and specific vision and he is steadily progressing and evolving within those narrow confines, but his trajectory is not likely to be obvious to casual listeners. The important thing is that BJ excels at what he does: the compositions themselves may be overtly minimal in nature, but the production transforms the base materials into something much deeper and more mesmerizing. This is layering at its most deft, as the glacially unfolding framework of the pieces houses a panning and warping hive of small-scale chaos. The Invisible City is a subtly mind-bending album of crystalline clarity and cold beauty. [Anthony D'Amico]

Other Music (USA):

BJ Nilsen has always been a favorite Touch operative of mine, and this latest full-length is an apt distillation of his sound to date. His last record, The Short Night, pulled into focus his amazing lightness of touch, as he carefully sculpted haunted field recordings and layered icy-cold monosynth. The results were ineffably affecting, and The Invisible City poises itself as the logical extension of those themes. Here the environmental recordings are pushed still further into the background, cloaked in dusty, buzzing synthesizers and malfunctioning oscillators. The drones that gradually trickled to life on its predecessor form the backbone of the album, giving it a doomed register Sunn O))) fans will no doubt be drawn to. When the guitar feedback drones of "Gravity Station" morph into machine noise and binary chatter there can be no doubt of the spine chilling potential of the record, and its ability to incite fear and awe from the listener. Thankfully, Nilsen calms his arsenal for the central section of the album, slipping into a gaseous ambient haze (helped by fellow Touchy Hildur Gudnadottir) which never totally disappears, fading into the album's second half like the ghost of Florian Fricke. There is something crucially human about Nilsen's productions; whether this comes from his use of the sounds around him or from his defiant compositional touch I am not sure, but it serves to make his albums incredibly listenable. Those who think ambient experimental is all horn-rimmed glasses and studied theories... well you're half right -- but try not to forget about the humanity in it all. [JT]

Boomkat (UK):

Exceptional new album from BJ Nilsen featuring the sublime Viola contributions of Hildur Gudnadottir and made with the aid of Tape Recorders, Computer, Organ, Acoustic Guitar, Electronics, Viola, Subharchord and field recordings from Sweden, Iceland, Norway, UK, Japan, Portugal and Germany* Celebrated sound artist BJ Nilsen's last album 'The Short Night' was an endlessly rich and rewarding album, one that's really grown in stature ever since its release a couple of years back, so we've been eagerly awaiting this brand new album - "The Invisible City". Recorded in Berlin, the album explores the potential of one of the very earliest synthesizers, the Subharchord stationed at Berlin's Udk, a relic of former GDR engineering developed to explore subharmonic sound. Nilsen uses these sources and many others to weave complex, anachronistic and challenging narratives which never fail to immerse you into his world, exploring physical and psychogeographic relationships between sounds, whether savouring the crunch of snow underfoot or juxtaposing sheer scales of sound both artifical and supra-natural with a riveting unpredictability. Fast becoming one of our favourite artists on the always-compelling Touch imprint, Nilsen has once again delivered an album that's both fearlessly dark, almost unnervingly so, and yet somehow inherently tender, letting in rare shafts of light through its tight-woven web of gloom. Very highly Recommended.

Norman Records (UK):

The news of a new BJ Nilsen album coming out had me anxious. I must admit that I got into this Swedish sound artist quite late on, but better late than never as they say. His latest album for Touch 'The Invisible City' has arrived and what a thoroughly absorbing listening experience it is. The use of field recordings, concrete techniques, DSP and electronic treatments really build an otherworldly environment that's exceptionally vivid, which (at various moments) has a delicious sense of impending doom and at others an almost spiritually uplifting (for me anyway) vibe. The range of instruments and source material used here is exceptionally imaginative: tapes, guitar, piano, glockenspiel, chairs dragging across floors, coffee pots whistling, the list is endless etc… Within my headphones I can really just lose myself here for eternity and forget the outside world exists, but then the CD ends and I'm compelled to hit play again. I shall certainly be whacking this onto my iPod for a late night stroll around the city when no soul is around and imagining an alternative reality. I can see it now, Greggs the bakers, drunks stumbling about trying to beg fags, good and bad architecture, the bright lights, the bus journey home and my own secret audio.

The Silent Ballet (USA):

Long considered a staple in the Touch roster, BJ Nilsen is a master of field recording-based music. Previously stunning audiences with Fade to White and A Short Night, BJ Nilsen doesn't budge an inch on The Invisible City and delivers another disc densely filled with layers of static, electronic hums and pulses and cold, steely recordings. It's a disc that is perfectly befitting of the desolate substructures of a city, where humans are a scarcity and machines tirelessly slave away to keep the infrastructure functioning. From deafening silence to ear drum splitting outbursts of noise, Nilsen shows again why he's one of the most respected experimental artists working today, and why few have been able to match his creative insight.

Further information/reviews
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BJNilsen - The Invisible City

MP3 sample

Track 5:  Meter Reading

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