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Album Review

When the choice of instrument is the actual earth itself, at least it won't require patient care and replacement parts, though one can't blame it for being temperamental. But this is precisely why Jacob Kirkegaard went to Iceland to record Eldfjall, an album consisting of field recordings made during 2004. Kirkegaard's interest in natural sound made Iceland a perfect choice — it's one of the most geologically active and unstable places on earth, with geysers and volcanoes defining the land as much as ice and snow. Recorded with microphones directly driven into the ground, Eldfjall captures sounds not at all far removed from the dark ambient drones of performers like Thomas Köner or Mick Harris — there's the same aspect of deep, captivating meditation, at once fascinating and unsettling. Kirkegaard doesn't rely on simply presenting moments and being done with it, however, introducing sudden edits that shift between one cryptic stretch of sound and another, at other points carefully layering or seguing between elements. Sometimes the results are almost mechanistic, the sputtering noises beginning "Nerthus" turning into the world's most in-need-of-repair motorcycle. At other times he uses the sounds to suggest other natural phenomena, a building howl of noise coming across like a wind tunnel in a cool deep hell. Another reference point would be Robert Hampson's work in Main, given the clattering, echoed arrhythmia Kirkegaard showcases on cuts like "Gaea" and "Aramaiti." But this ultimately is its own beast, a combination of using available technology and the ground under our feet to create something moving and mysterious. The sense that not even our seemingly solid ground is all that, after all, is an unsettling one.

Eldfjall, Jacob Kirkegaard
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