Undulate by Niklas Adam

SOFA572_frontNiklas Adam | Undulate
Sofa (CD/DL)

Oslo-based multimedia artist Niklas Adam‘s new Undulate is a bit of a head-turner. The ultra-minimal Gestures, Percussion Solo, Jungle reminds me of incidental sounds you might encounter in a instrument or toy factory. With umpteen stops and starts this pops and flails in seconds, then turns to hard silence, repeating this treatment for the first four or so minutes until micro particles slowly drift from the core. If you like gestural minimalism that takes it sweet time to unfold, this will be the ultimate teaser.

Its clunky – but collected, animated – but sharply so, sparse – yet active with little tactile twists and fragmentary observations. The energy is bent like the waves of a theremin, undulating just as in its title. A woodpecker (or sewing machine) riveting away breaks into a particularly passage of poppy bloops and bleeps, it’s likely neither but took me by surprise. The accompanying papers suggest:

It’s is a concert. It’s is a lecture. It’s is a drum solo, a homage to Tudor, an opaque invitation, it’s a conversation in silence and incomprehensible fields, a test for an upcoming AGI. Volatile acoustic spaces ornamented with intrinsic synthetic sounds. Spatial narrow windows of waves, oxygen intake and walking in rubber shoes, intertwined by re-synthesized classical stems and animal sounds. A melancholic modality spinning on the murmurs from the inside of an organ coupled by a mean-tone synthetic twin. A floating, indecisive passive voice. Hardheaded collocations and weathered tirades undulating at every breath.”

Though this flows like poetic innuendo, I cannot concur “exactly”, but there is surely something about im/passivity embedded, that and cat-scratch fever (more or less). It’s moody but in a clinical sort of way, a clean composition with an experimental attitude and stripped down set of abstract characteristics. This all flows right into the second piece, Other Solutions and Mimicking Object A. Actually while listening I didn’t even notice any break between the two works, as similar minor kinesics seem to be employed in the same manner. I’m slightly reminded of work by Seth Nehil (or to a lesser extent Dan Burke) here, without the flourishes. I appreciate hearing the breath rolling right alongside the static and fine white noise.

When Adam brings in the voice is where the piece takes off. At first you hear something akin to a Muppet, but it just as soon sounds like the broken-up, vocoded voice of Stephen Hawking, all matching the sentence-style structure here. There is a lot of space – and in this way may have more in common with the work of Cy Twombley than with any particular musical score, save for perhaps something inwardly Cage-ian. All references aside, not until the final seven minutes do we encounter what may seem like the only moments of transitory instrumentation, percussive brushing, a wind instrument that lets its air go. In the end the drone of a pipe organ, a toy squeezed, maybe someone is sweeping – it’s a visceral set of circumstances.

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