Time Released Sound has done it again. After making a huge splash in 2011, the label has expanded far beyond its ambient beginnings and is now beginning to make waves in the experimental field. This marks a natural progression for the label, whose handmade packaging and DIY attitude have drawn the attention of a diverse number of artists. The latest is the Russian trio Night Shift, joined by Olli Aarni, also known as Ous Mal.
Ous Mal has proven himself to be a maverick even within the Finnish experimental scene; his willingness to cross genres within single songs has become one of his clearest hallmarks. So it’s no surprise to find that Trespasser’s Guide to Nowhere is full of influences and samples; the surprise is how many. Not only does the album include elements of disparate genres, ranging from folk and ambient to trip-hop and mashup; it also brims with field recordings, film dialogue, backward masking, and snippets of old vinyl. At any moment, a choir may sing, a brook may babble, a door may open, a public service announcement may be made. From tap dancing to trains, motorcycles to marching bands, this one really packs it in. With four DJs in the booth, the album operates like a mix tape, in love with the breadth of sound. There’s music here, too: piano, bells, electronics, drones. In fact, it would be difficult to pinpoint anything that isn’t here. It’s as if the quartet threw all their ideas on the table and decided to adopt every one. There’s even a horse whinney, reminiscent of that used by The Avalanches on their meticulously crafted debut a decade ago.
For some listeners, the sheer number of sources may be too much to handle. Samples scoot by like seagulls in a hurricane, and the tracks blend together to form a single 77-minute mix. Some will call it generous, others overstuffed. But those who love sound variety will be fascinated. There’s not a nook or cranny anywhere that doesn’t have something stuck in it; it’s like a curio shoppe waiting to be browsed. “Do you have a bicycle bell?” “Right here, sir!” “Some old jazz?” “It’s around here somewhere … found it!” Every sound has its place, and every placement makes sense; each key shift is gentle, like the subtle transition from dusk to dark. When the fireworks begin to pop, they seem celebratory; Night Shift has shoved more bodies in the phone booth than anyone thought possible.
As the final track counts backwards to one, the album seems over, but in the album’s final minute the volume rises again. The album’s abrupt opening sample is repeated, then the song is cut off in mid-trajectory. Trespasser’s Guide to Nowhere is meant to be seen as a closed loop, but the bracelet has snapped. The way to restore it would be to splice the beginning of the opening track into the final seconds of the last. But this is not Night Shift’s intention; they want the edges to be jagged. This way listeners can imagine an endless cycle, a map whose left edge repeats its right, a trespasser’s guide to nowhere. The packaging in the recommended deluxe version bears this out: a labyrinthine origami-esque wallpaper star encased in a reclaimed antique book. Where it begins, where it ends and how to make sense of it all is secondary to the beauty of the art and its feeling of fragility. (Richard Allen)