Exposé print issues (1993-2011)
J. Peter Schwalm — How We Fall
(RareNoise RNR096, 2018, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2018-10-09
J. Peter Schwalm is back with another set of intriguing electronic music. The Beauty of Disaster (2016) was a surprising and eclectic collection of manipulated sounds, and How We Fall carries on that tradition. At times it’s an exploration of how abstract music can get and still maintain coherence. The opening track, “Strofort,” is like this, with unidentifiable noises contrasting marimba-like ostinatos and quiet organ-like notes floating in and out of awareness. A percussive rhythm condenses out of the sonic fog, but it’s hard to know exactly its origin, and accents shift around unpredictably, sometimes seeming to fall into a consistent time signature, then drifting out with three-on-four polyrhythms or some other kind of deviation. A section in the middle threatens to build a recognizable structure, but dissolves into competing patterns that don’t quite align. The overall effect is definitely cinematic, evocative of images on a large screen, a little like the great soundtrack to Blade Runner 2049, though much less electronic sounding and more electro-acoustic — processed real instruments as opposed to synthesizers. The percussive sounds are generally more reminiscent of orchestral percussion than a drum kit, and sometimes you might swear the original sound came from a big taiko drum. Fleeting impressions bring to mind piano, electric guitar, strings, or voices, but certainty is elusive. “Stormbruch” presents another side to Schwalm’s artistry, with vast swells of electronic sounds that almost feel like chords and wash over the listener like slow waves on a beach at night. This is bookended by serene meditations from a processed piano. Schwalm occupies a niche of electronic music that does not fit in with most other artists. How We Fall is not Berlin-style sequencing, not ambient space-out music, not dance-floor throbbing, not electro-acoustic experimentalism, not industrial noise… What it is might be harder to describe, but well worth investigating. Beautiful, fascinating, and unique.
Related artist(s): J. Peter Schwalm
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