SIM CARD HØLDER — review on musicalsoundbites.com
Sim Card Hølder, described as ‘the hybrid child of Ian Bruner, Drone Operatør and Gajek'', is a group that probably don’t want to be defined. Borrowing from a number of genres ranging from free jazz, ambient music and impressionism, this album is filled with abstract forms and hard-to-determine sounds that have a ‘listen now, ask later’ sort of approach. Moving around from simple blocks of sound (as in Sleepparalysis) to fast and almost deranged bebop (Dronegød) and passé sounding impressionism, they seem more concerned with the general feel created than the details themselves.
Often the details are hidden anyway. Timbres are combined and distorted, making them difficult to identify in the tangled web of sound that’s created. TVdream is a nice example, with the rising mass of sound in the foreground seemingly combining saxophones, electronics and a whole load of mechanistic, industrial timbres as they seethe and rise together. ASEGMENTØFSKY mashes all its ideas up and puts them through some sort of vocoder, so you get remnants of recognisable sound swirling about. It’s almost like viewing it from underwater. You can see the shapes and the patterns they make, but the surface is too impenetrable to make out anything clearly.
It’s hard to find any sense of structure either. Pieces seem more than happy enough to explore their own sound world without having to worry about the listener’s patience or stamina while they’re at it. The mixture of free rhythm and musiqe concrete influences, (including creaks, far-off bangs and even the barking of a dog) help add to the disorientation of it all. However, despite the amount of apparent randomness, it never feels pointless or for the sake of being weird. With all the avant-garde, classical, jazz and minimalist ideas, there’s a lot going on, but it all has a purpose, contributing to this overarching atmosphere that’s somehow maintained until the end. The only problem is figuring out what it all means. A lot of mixed messages are given off, from the 'noise for the sake of noise' blasts in Sleepparalysis to the calm piano interludes that keep recurring, leaving us not entirely sure how to respond.
At times the message seems one of alienation, with the use of electronics in Icaruscomplex_ really milking the sure and almost psychotic determinism of the machinery. It feels as if the music is indifferent to the listener at times. The best way to describe it overall is probably a vague sense of dread, but even that doesn’t cover all the variety found throughout. It also doesn't account for moments of softness and sentimentality, such as the piano breaks in pieces like fallingasleepwiththedrones and Alone_, which give the LP a sense of direction, acting almost as moments of enlightenment and rest after the stormy journeys that most of the other tracks offer. It’s these pieces where a heart can be found that seems to warm to the listener, offering more accessible and soothing tones and harmonies unlike the overblown saxophones and eerie string harmonics of other tracks.
This has a lot of avant-garde and non-listener friendly ideas that will probably get in the way of some people’s enjoyment, but in the end, they do put atmosphere and flow first above anything else. Although it’ll provide a grating listen for some, it’s definitely something for those who don’t mind sitting and waiting for an album to take you, immersing yourself in its sound. You’d have to be patient, just as its creators were patient in its construction. If you always know what you want to feel from music, then I wouldn’t recommend it, but for the right listener, this could be something special. (@yalcrabdivad)
BOLTS 00-99 — REVIEW ON MUSICALSOUNDBITES.com
Drone Operatør certainly aren’t the most sentimental of jazz players, preferring to go more for the old ‘banging-your-head-against-the-wall’ approach, wilfully repelling casual listeners on sight. Unlike their spacey use of electronics in the Sim Card Hølder collaboration, this goes straight to the guttural, earthy timbres of fusion, treating jazz like a massive metal stick with which to beat listeners around the head.
It’s impressive how the instrumentalists keep together, especially since the musical texture thrives on their individualism, with any two instruments rarely feeling comfortable around one other. The musical structure constantly seems to backtrack and purposefully forget its place, with ideas often cut short and repeated over and over like they're stuck in a loop, desperately trying to break free.
All the calm ‘cool’ edges of jazz have been sharpened, taking a more brute force approach. The influence of progressive rock can be seen with the explosive drumming style that’s adopted at times, as well as the jarring rhythm changes that continually make their mark on a piece. The drums are almost comical in how they try to keep a beat, what with it being questionable whether or not there's one to keep in the first place. The fluttery cymbal tap-dancing and crashes in ‘Gambler’ feel especially tongue in cheek, their lightness contrasted against the manic saxophone squabbles they accompany. There’s no grace about anything here, and that’s the way they like it.
Admittedly it’s not always easy to distinguish between one piece and another, but you're probably not meant to. It’s not about the music itself but the action behind it all made by the musicians. Each piece sees an energetic thrashing as the instrumentalists try to escape the electronic hums and emptiness that always remains at the heart of it all, and into which all the noise inevitably falls. However much they thrash and wail about, it all ends the same way. The ideas are too fragmented to do anything else, with the scuttling drum taps, jagged bass figures and wailing sax eventually disintegrating into nothing. Whereas Sim Card Hølder was willing to explore this emptiness, this is more desperate, doing anything to get away and fill it all with noise.
There’s definitely a manic edge to this recording. It’s not jazz in the traditional sense of the word, but if you’re interested in jazz fusion with a psychotic edge then definitely go for it - you’re gonna have a lot of fun with this one. Either way, one thing’s for sure; they’re going their own way, whether you come along for the ride or not. (@yalcrabdivad)