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Pål Asle Pettersen – Komposisjoner 2005-2008

Pål Asle Pettersen - Komposisjoner 2005-2008

CD, Zang:, 2009

Pal Asle Pettersen is the owner of the Zang label and producer of a very idiosyncratic mode of contemporary electro-acoustic music. In the last few years Norwegian electronica and improvisation has become gratingly fashionable and over-exposed, but Pettersen doesn’t seem to have been sucked into what is an increasingly mediocre movement – possibly his work is too raw and unpredictable even for this self-consciously eclectic scene. Although the work is full of dramatic and even perverse shifts and transitions it implies a challenge to the way in which we increasingly form instant judgements on music. It can’t easily be assimilated in a sitting and demands some attentive repeat listening in order to (try) and piece together what’s actually happening. The compositions both reward and demand repeat listening and at some volume, listen too low and many of the details will escape you.
Identifying precisely what these details are (or originally were) is an open and constantly intriguing question. Pettersen mentions various sources for his laptop-processed sounds but one of the key ones is water, which is a constant presence here, but rather than just the soft sounds of rain or running water there are violent (and paradoxical) blasts of water-derived liquid noise. Another element is a sort of digital Norwegian scree (to use an Old Norse word) – loose sonic debris constantly disturbed by the underlying movements affecting Peterrsen’s austere terrain. When the pieces contain as many varied elements as some of these do it’s hard to single them out and it’s also very likely that different (elements of) tracks will force themselves into consciousness on each listening.
That said, “Komposisjon 19” is the first real highlight – a very impressive blast of powerful but precise electro-acoustic noise. Several tracks contain long, cold, drones but these are almost always broken up by sudden changes. Another piece that stands out is “Komposisjon 16”, which moves from what are (probably?) underwater sounds into a very cold and regular systemic drone which is later broken up by violent heavy water and other sounds. “Komposisjon 24” veers between an un-definable ritualistic grating pattern, flecks of Mego-like laptop noise and finally near silence. Even the more stable passages here often have a restless, unresolved atmosphere and the general impression from the album is one of (semi)-controlled instability. This makes it hard to reach a final judgement or stable interpretation but that’s one of the virtues of this unusual body of work.


— Alexei Monroe

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