by Lee Powell
One of the benefits of being an artist outside the parameters of populist musical circles is that, more often than not, you’re allowed to indulge yourself and, to a certain degree, pursue your own follies. Obviously there are some limitations to that, but within the ‘outsider’ artistic movement there is most certainly the capability to focus on genuine inspirations instead of self-prescribed ideas. This has always ensured that the post-industrial scene in its widest sense of the word has been able to offer up a huge plethora of work which can actually connect to the listener on more than a superficial level. The dark ambient genre is a wonderful example of this as countless compositions are created that fully embrace the listener and mentally transport them to the very essence of what the composer has intended.
This is where, roughly, the third boxset of ambient works by painter and musician Tor Lundvall sits. Presented in a lavish CD-sized card box, Nature Laughs as Time Slips by contains an impressive five discs which pull in a huge canon of work from Tor including occasional pieces which stretch back to his earliest audio experiments.
I first became aware of Tor through his collaboration with one of the ‘post-industrial’ scene’s legendary exponents Tony Wakeford and their hypnotically compelling collaboration, Autumn Calls, which was released back in 1998. I remember getting this CD upon release and, while not being aware of Tor previously, I could hear immediately how his ambient structures enhanced the richness of Messer Wakeford’s sound.
Much like his companion then, Tor hasn’t forgone the allure of recording and as such has built up an impressive assemblage of releases that span the gambit of dark ambient arrangements.
This boxset follows a similar path yet it sets its own boundaries by focusing predominantly on works that fall under the remit of the collection’s title, as the titles of the individual CDs display: ‘The Park’, ‘Rain Studies’, ‘Field Trip’, ‘Insect Wings…’, and perhaps the anomaly of the grouping as far as titles go, ‘The Violet-Blue House’.
The mood and atmosphere that ebbs from each of these CDs, while being different in substance, all share the characteristics of a personal nature; Tor’s fingerprints are deeply embedded into each track, making it a work that is solely and uniquely his. Within each new disc, the sound that is captured sees Tor expanding his sound by steering each track in a different direction whilst ensuring that each journey starts and finishes at the same destination for all of them.
It would be easy to sit and dissect each of the CDs, their sounds, atmospheres, and perceived meanings, yet I feel for each listener the very essence of each album will prescribe a different set of thoughts and ideas. What is important to say is that although these works are personal in nature they also seem extremely inclusive. There are no barriers present, instead opting to remain open with inviting yet haunting compositions, bleeding over each listener with their own tint of perception.
Sitting at my desk now I’m looking out of my window playing each CD in turn and letting myself share the experiences of Tor’s oeuvres. It’s a grey still day outside and nature is embracing the enticing warmth of spring as it slowly sheds its winter coverings. My house is silent aside from the heavy breathing of my dog, asleep by my feet and the clicking of my keyboard. ‘The Violet-Blue House’ is playing and it’s beautiful. It captures the moment perfectly in an alluringly distant way. If I stop and just listen to it for a moment with no other distractions it’s almost overwhelming. It’s delicately sparse and fragile, yet it frames the pull of my surroundings perfectly. It’s like the tracks have been recorded just for me, for this exact moment. Yet, this is the work pulled from someone else’s diary of thoughts and ideas. This is most certainly one of the boxset’s strengths. It works majestically for each listener but in a different way. It’s almost as if each CD has been cut and pasted to exclusively mirror each listener’s thoughts and ideas as opposed to Tor unfurling his own feelings and reflections.
The accompanying booklet, comprising predominately of Tor’s artwork, also contains some limited linear notes about each CD and when they were recorded. I’d fully encourage a visit to Tor’s website to ingest the ideas behind each of these wonderful CDs and how they fit within your own parameters while his music encapsulates your very essence.
Nature Laughs as Time Slips by can be, by its very size, somewhat of an intimidating release, yet as soon as you play the first CD (personally I like to randomly choose one) you will realise that it’s a release of an embracing beauty; each new disc is like a distant spectral dream that pleasantly soundtracks your day, the nature surrounding it, and the very embrace that nature as a whole has upon us, like a druidic enchantment. This set is truly wonderful and I challenge anyone who has the slightest interest in the darker remits of ambient works to not be moved by numerous pieces contained within. My only recommendation is to do so when you’re at peace with yourself and your surroundings; only then will you be able to fully appreciate the fragility and allure of Nature Laughs as Time Slips by, its shadowed splendour, and the immensely, dual introverted and extroverted nature.