Stephan Meidell plays guitar, bass and synth in the trio Cakewalk, alongside drums and ‘lead’ synths. On his own album he drops the bass in favour of a drum machine, a no-input mixer and tapes, so already you get a sense of the more complex textures he’s going for in his solo project. But then there’s his band, with its all-acoustic instrumentation of clarinet, prepared piano and harpsichord, Hardanger fiddle and baroque violin.
Meidell says he composed the album on laptop and headphones, in a thin-walled apartment (a far cry from the reverberant factory shells in which he recorded his 2014 solo debut Cascades), and that: “Maybe because of the plucked-violin sound of my acoustic guitar, or because of the tonalities and tuning I worked with, the word ‘baroque’ started floating to the surface, giving me the idea of involving instruments from that era.”
So maybe the deep, rounded electronic pulses of ‘Baroque I’ might not be what you expect. Meidell isn’t as respectful of early music as, say, label-mate Christian Wallumrød can be. The baroque is there in the accompanying harpsichord shimmer, firmed up with inside piano flourishes while Hardanger fiddle carries a unifying, snaking melodic line. ‘Baroque II’ begins again with a dirty minimalist pattern played on the piano harp maybe, and the electronics are now deeper and more vibrant, but there’s that Hardanger melody again, weighted by a bass clarinet shadow.
Meidell gives ‘State’ a much more complex treatment than Cakewalk do on their contemporaneous album Ishihara. In place of Cakewalk’s streamlined momentum, ‘State I’ pulses with raw glitch vitality, a sort of primitive techno complicated by acoustic piano drops, and Meidell’s guitar in a tense counterpoint to terse fiddle. Still it thrums dangerously before slipping a throbbing tension of bass detonations and drawn string sound on ‘State II’, and further – dropping the electronics to accentuate eerie acoustic sounds and draw out Nordic folk textures on ‘State III’.
It’s all in one part, but the 12 minute long, atonally rhythmic and suitably ecological ‘Biotop’ is the longest piece here: no piano, fiddle nor harpsichord, just clarinet and baroque violin, more-or-less tentatively probing a steady electronic beat clouded by complexly blippy analogue synth patterns cross-strummed by acoustic guitar, all creating creating a strange sensation of bioluminescence.
‘Tauchgang’ (‘dive’ in English) reunites the whole band bar clarinet in what sounds like an acousmatic, environmental soundscape where only shards of acoustic texture scrape and slither amid fractured beats that eventually coalesce into focal, isolated pulses.
This is a strikingly original album by any standards, and since I’m finding Cakewalk’s Metrics one of the most compulsively enjoyable albums of recent times it’s particularly good to get deeper into Meidell’s individual conception.
Magda Mayas – prepared piano; Erlend Apneseth – Hardanger fiddle; Morten Barrikmo – clarinets; Hans Knut Sveen – harpsichord; Stefan Lindvall – baroque violin.
Buy Metrics direct from Hubro.