This release is darkly haunting, beautifully aimless, and full of emptiness. The sound is rich with ambient hums like distant generators, machines in other rooms, traffic heard from deep below the surface, and the hiss of old cassette—that raw analogue sibilance that somehow emotionally taps into a feeling of space. Among the field-recording hum and hiss, reverb-heavy clanks and scrapes further add to this sense of place—to the feeling that these bangs and thuds and scrapings take place in a 3D environment. They are the sounds created by a visually undocumented event taking place (rather than anything so hokey as ‘entertainment’). Added to these scrapes and thumps (is it heavy machinery being dragged? manholes being prised open? filing cabinets being ‘disappeared’? trapdoors closing?), scribbles of manipulated tape draw messy sketches in the air—human voices scratched backwards and forwards ad nauseam as though searching for a hidden message. Eruptions of detuned radio burst into static bloom (talking, fragments of song), only to vanish just as quickly as they came. There are moments of feedback—small feedback, like a malfunctioning answering machine in another (abandoned) office in this (abandoned) underground complex—distant power tools, and record crackles (or is it fire?). Eventually, drones appear, created (seemingly) from tape loops, muffled, saturated, and dank. Percussive sounds sporadically appear (slamming doors? breaking bones? the creaking springs in a stained mattress? searching through boxes for evidence?) while washes of textured drones slowly rise like a slowly flooding room, giving us the unspoken choice to flee and miss out forever or stay and maybe drown. I chose to drown.
Invisible Paths is evocative, arhythmic, and exploratory. So many releases claim to ‘take you on a journey’, but this album’s two long tracks really do just that. Without a list of instruments or recording notes to guide/reassure us (‘oh, they were just playing music after all’), these sounds really do feel more like documents of unseen events—or, indeed, journeys down ‘invisible paths’—than anything else. Straddling the excellent realm between pure experimentia and dark ambient, this release doesn’t rely on the hackneyed and overused tropes of either realm to attempt to create atmosphere, but feels like Sindre Bjerga and Micromelancolié are engaged in some genuine exploring. There are no lush ‘dark ambient 101’ drones here used as a bedding for obvious ‘spooky’ sounds to sit atop of: All the bangs and thuds and scrapes have unclear origins and are all the more evocative for it, precisely because they sound so much like ‘ordinary sounds’ occurring because of ‘what is happening’, rather than ‘to make music’. Similarly, everything feels sort of lo-fi in the best possible way, stirring up uncertain feelings of confused nostalgia, like a David Lynch film plays with the banal to summon up the strangeness just below the surface.
Not that this album is at all ‘dark’: part of its strength, I think, is that it doesn’t appear to be trying too hard to be anything specific, but ‘just is’, allowing each listener to travel on whatever subjective ‘invisible path’ they are sent down by the sounds on offer. And, while the idea of ‘a bunch of unplanned sounds that happened to occur while we were recording’ is not a new idea in the experimental scene (indeed, that’s pretty much de rigeur), these ones really work to evoke something, even if that specific something is vague and undefinable and different for every person. I’ve listened to many experimental recordings where it felt like a random and alienating collection of meaningless accidents—this release does not feel either random or alienating, and most definitely does not feel meaningless. But as to what that meaning is, well… that’s impossible to say, and, perversely, that’s what makes it so excellent to get lost in.
01) Invisible Paths I
02) Invisible Paths II