The futile struggle against erosive forces: snapshots of street scenes at the most forlorne corners of town.
Good things come to those who wait, so that is what Hærleif Langås has done. Even under his Northaunt moniker, which has presently taken over from Non Ethos as his main artistic valve, time between releases has always been long compared to the usual replacement periods of the genre.
In the case of "Syk Asfalt" Langås has waited years to be able to present the work the way he originally envisaged it and on a label which would be able to bring such an uneasy and demanding work to an audience with open ears. And even if you're left with more questions than answers in the end, the album precisely fills the gap between Non Ethos and Northaunt and therefore complements his discography in a supple manner.
After all, the differences between the two projects are drastic. On the one hand, there's the ethereal beauty of Northaunt, inspired by the purity of Norwegian nature and filled with forrays into light-filled Drone- and Field Recording territory. On the other, there's a dark experimental outlet based just as much on philosophical discussions as on the belief that there are "cracks in ourselves which we can't mend". The scenerie for the former is the countryside, for the latter it is the city with its tarred highways and the futile struggle against errosive forces. And yet, there are many obvious similarities between both oeuvres.
"Syk Asfalt" concentrates on grating and gravelling noises, on the finely gritting emissions of boot soles grinding tiny stones and urban debris. What starts out concretely and almost as a sort of selective musique concrete, is slowly lifted into ghostly abstractions, as weightless drones rise up through the gutters and fill the spaces between the molecular noises.
Langås is not interested in the kind of accretions he now specialises in, nor does he dissect his gravel sounds into even smaller, sharper and self-sufficient entities. Instead, the raw and hollistic character of the recordings remains and so does the contrast between the "musical" and the "material". Possibly these mostly six to seven minute long pieces are less to be understood as compositions, but rather as snapshots of street scenes, witnessed at some of the most forlorne corners of town. It is almost like watching a Polaroid slowly take on shapes and colours, before it sails away gracefully, floating weightlessly into a pool of mud.
The fact that one can hear footsteps distancing themselves from the action at the end of almost every track intensifies the impression that "Syk Asfalt" wants to "observed" rather than simply "listened to". What it doesn't provide is an obvious focus. There is only a scant pool of musical objects and none of them seems to want to take center stage, leaving one unsure about whence to direct one's attention.
Also, there is a high degree of openness, which could easily be confused with aimlessness – "Syk Asfalt" never forces itself upon the listener and needs to be discovered. Once you have, you will find new details with each listen on an album of gentle contours, despite its sinister symantics. Just give it some time – after all, by now it should have become clear that good things come to those who wait.