CD, Some Place Else, 2008
In 2006, Finnish artist Ovro released a very limited edition EP called “Estraier”. Based on field recordings taken from her 2006 tour of Russia, “Estraier” was only available in small quantities as a bonus disc with pre-orders of her “Mosaick the Serpent / Vipera Aurea” album. “Revisited” is limited to 1000 copies and is based on the original “Estraier” recordings that have been further processed and manipulated to form a completely new album.
Although it starts out in a similar way to the original recording, “Revisited” soon heads in a new direction full of entrancing dark ambient soundscapes. It commonly features an ever-present low bassy rumble mixed with everyday sounds such as people talking, trains travelling and general street activity skilfully mixed and augmented in the studio with undulating tones and subtle sounds to enhance the experience. Opening with the serene ambience of “Sidéral”, the album starts out gently with steady low tones and the sound of the St Petersburg underground system and the busy city above subtly building with intensity as it progresses. Similarly, “Commutare” features the sound of the train to Moscow and its underground system mixed with Turku traffic. The result sees the deep rumble and familiar sound of the train on the tracks enhanced with train announcements interspersed with occasional bursts of train noise and passengers chatting.
Ovro’s ability to take field recordings from very different sources and combine the sounds as if they are musical elements in their own right is fascinating. While her music is distinctly electronic and dark ambient, her use of TV samples, overheard conversations and everyday sounds brings an element of familiarity to her work, bringing with it a sense of feeling and presence not achieved with other dark ambient releases. “Compulsed” is a good example of this with the layering of manipulated sounds sourced from Russian TV enhanced with digital creaks and clicks lends an element of reality that it is easy to relate to but the processed sounds then turn that feeling on its head by giving it a dark nightmarish quality. “Iconon” treads a similar path by treating sounds of a tour guide and tour group recorded during a visit to St Issac’s Cathedral. The tour guide’s voice is processed to sound like it is coming through from another dimension while the sound of bells from a nearby monastery chime in the background. Ovro’s manipulation and reversal of voices gives the track a dark demonic quality that is heightened by a low rumble and groaning electronic detritus throughout. All of the elements are recognisable and familiar but processed and manipulated in such a way as to give them entirely new meaning and relevance to the piece as a whole.
Ovro is very good at maintaining her anonymity, perhaps to retain focus on her music, only choosing to release new material from time to time. However, the music she does release keeps a watchful eye on quality. “Revisited” is an absorbing re-imagining of the “Estraier” EP with great depth that reveals new facets on every listen.
— Paul Lloyd