Nils Henrik Asheim – Grand Mutation

Nils Henrik Asheim
Grand Mutation

Lasse Marhaug continues to unleash an onslaught of excellent releases in 2007. Along with his collection of live material, Alive, and PacRec releaase The Great Silence, plus whatever Jazkamer stuff he’s got going on, he managed to find time to collaborate with Nils Henrik Asheim for one of the most challenging records of the year. Grand Mutation was recorded in Oslo Cathedral with Asheim on organ and Marhaug on electronics and features the gorgeous drone of the cathedral’s organ butting up against Marhaug’s abrasive noise.

While Lasse Marhaug may be known for his lack of subtlety on some of his own releases, here he acts like a skillful surgeon cutting and slicing into the glacial drone of the organ with swathes of static blast. The entire record plays excellently as one coherent piece as it was recorded in one fell swoop with the two musicians providing some slight modifications afterwards and dividing it into the five tracks presented. Over the course of roughly an hour, the two build up a superb tension that wouldn’t be possible in the hands of less talented artists. Sandwiched smack in the middle of these is the brief “Magnaton” which acts as a bridge between the first and second half of the overall piece. Here Asheim’s dramatic stops and starts are interspersed with jarring blasts of Marhaug’s most punishing shrapnel.

Grand Mutation functions as a mountainous work. “Brodunal” provides increasing pressure leading into “Phoneuma” with its slow binding of sonorous threads into a a stoic pillar of sound. “Philomela” and “Clavaeolina” bring the listener down from the clouds over the last twenty five minutes, settling into a ferocious finale of organ and noise. It rubs the listener’s ear down like a chunk of cold concrete, an acute pain that is numbing in and of itself. The tracks are long and dependent on one another to function as an entirety. This isn’t to say that they can’t be enjoyed independently of one another, in fact quite the contrary. Grand Mutation is one of those singular works of art that stands up to being hacked up for its pieces while retaining the most intense solidarity lacking in some of the most carefully constructed works in the genre.