Observation is one of the most intricate and absorbing albums that I’ve been sent for review since this blog was established – it’s also by turns uncomfortable, discordant and challenging, but then in researching the background to this avant-garde spacerock conception I come away with a strong feeling that this was at least part of the objective of the compositions.
Firstly, there’s the multi-geographical make-up of Coma Cluster because although the driving force and the starting point is the vision of Icelandic musicians Hallvardur Ásgeirsson and Siffvilnius, this is another project made possible by collaborations through the ether - so that they can say that it was created across three continents and in four countries. And, befitting such a cross-continental endeavour, they note on their website that one piece here, gAldur, was performed live at the United Nations in the presence of Ban Ki Moon and Bill Clinton.
And then there’s the backdrop to the album’s themes, because what was conceptualised as being a reflection of what’s happening down here on Earth expressed as the observation of our industrial malaise by a race of beings far beyond our own technology, got overtaken in its recording by the global financial chaos and meltdown – which as we know impacted greatly on Iceland itself.
So this brooding and unearthly suite of sounds, emanating out from a country that I’ve always very much wanted to visit for its sheer sense of ‘outsideness’, reflects back the multitudinous opportunities for catastrophe that we’ve created for ourselves – and have had created for us by those in power, whether they wield that openly or from within the shadows. As such, this is a work of darkness that still allows the crystalline structures of hope and beauty to come through as shimmering lights amidst the often hopelessness that we find ourselves rooted in.
It’s the sort of work that is difficult to write about within the traditional framework of music journalism, since what’s being aurally visualised is a complex arrangement that is described by the composers as being “a new musical harmony, an organic sound capturing contemporary humanistic culture view from a remote perspective.” I can say that it possesses a studied sense of menace, that there’s a deliberate sense of unease that runs through its compelling free-form sounds - and that it’s a work that demands rapt attention from the listener.
Buy Download of Observation