04 April, 2008

Beauty in the Everyday

I started listening to Ames Room by Silje Nes just a few minutes ago, and I already feel completely and unequivocally relaxed. It's like I'm back in the womb, rocking gently in amniotic fluid (only not as disgusting). iTunes somehow gets away with categorizing Ames Room as electronic music, but that is almost diametrically opposed to what I feel when I listen. The sound is intensely organic, sometimes echoing a human heartbeat, and sometimes percussing like a heavy rainstorm. When I think electronic, I think sterile, black and white and grey; I think computer chips and synthesizers and drum-machines. When I think Silje Nes (not that I've often done this), I think of nature and our ever-present, ever-changing connection to the living, breathing pores of the Earth.

The song "Ames Room" is a perfect example of this organic musical exploration. Dripping noises sit innocuously in front of the beating drum, like a leaky tin roof, and Silje's voice is a soft and breathy wind. Listen then to "Drown" with its melancholy Radiohead guitar, and you can almost feel stifled and overwhelmed by the certainty that the melody espouses; but, then you hear that soft heartbeat underlying everything, and the occasional sound of a wooden wind-chime. "Dizzy Street" has a stop-start quality that hesitates like I do when I'm feeling sensory overload in a big city. There's also "Escape", a lullaby lacking in repetition, and "No Bird Can", which lazily explores wind instruments as a grand finale to the whole album.

The disjointed songs where Silje Nes's sound doesn't work, are far and few between, and mostly succeed in making the rest of the album sound more relaxing. "Shapes, Electric" gets a little too spooky and precious for even my unique tastes. I find that the song sounds rather alien, almost extraterrestrial in fact, to the point where I lose my connection to the organic roots, and start floating through the dark and lonely universe. "Searching, White" is a white noise monstrosity that tries too hard to incorporate distortion and a marching rhythm to abstract lyrics. These two songs are really the only uncomfortable pieces on the entire album, which is quite a feat when you realize that it's fourteen songs long.

Overall, I would not hesitate to see Silje Nes in concert, and I would absolutely purchase Ames Room. It's not a breathtaking work of art that you would find in the Louvre, but it's a rooted album that sounds natural and consistent.

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