3leaves is known for their experimental leanings, but their latest release is one of their most abrasive yet, a far cry from the field recordings that have been their bread and butter. It’s also one of the label’s finest releases to date.
Fans of Icelandic musician Bjarni Gunnarsson have been waiting a long time for Processes & Potentials to appear. Some of these tracks have been percolating on Soundcloud for months, tantalizingly close but just out of reach. The album forms a perfect bookend to Safn 2006-2009, as these new pieces were recorded in the ensuing years. (A personal plea to Gunnarsson: we’re still missing “Samarin”, “Angst” and “Grey Seeds”; please consider an audiovisual release!)
Gunnarsson’s primary interest is in “process-based ideas … sounds based on internal activity and motion”. This is a perfect description for his solo work, although he also applies this approach to collaborative projects including mgbg (electronic / vocal improvisation) and Einóma (IDM). It’s easy to see where the line has been drawn, as beats and vocals would seem out of place on Processes & Potentials. On this album, drone is the home base from which every sound is free to wander. And wander they do. Whether crunch or warble, pierce or ping, these electronic sounds travel the full length of the spectrum, loud to soft, high to low, thick to thin. Glitch is involved, but not in IDM fashion; the pops provide impressions of spark plugs and static surges. The music often reboots, allowing new patterns to emerge from silence. While no linear narrative is apparent, the use of related tones ties the album together. The collection’s best asset is its refusal to play by the rules. Melodies can be gleaned where no melodies have been written. A mind in search of clarity may perceive a sense of order, but even Gunnarsson admits that these pieces began as half-maps and mazes. To listen is to be lost on a small island; one knows that one will always find the shore. (Richard Allen)