The latest two releases from the Dronarivm label are sent in little gift boxes, which include the CD3″s plus assorted ephemera. Sima Kim‘s box contains dried flowers and a small booklet; Tobias Hellkvist‘s box contains sea creature cards and tiny colored stones. (Be careful opening that last one!) It’s always nice to get a little something extra along with a recording ~ a sign that a label or artist is putting in some extra effort.
Kim’s two tracks are slow-growing drones that ripple and undulate before sinking into slow silence. The title Freudvoll und Leidvoll (“joyful and sorrowful) is found in the Goethe play Egmont, and was later adopted by Beethoven. Listeners should not expect flourishes and operatic tones, however; Kim’s version echoes Beethoven’s opening notes, but remains sedate. Looped piano notes are buried deep in the “joyful” track, and all but disappear as an ominous cloud approaches. The “sorrowful” track comes across in waves, allowing tiny melodies to bob to the surface. The closing minutes are as sparse as dissipation.
Cay is completely different, active where the other disc is passive. In this recording, Tobias Hellkvist presents an underwater kingdom at play. Bells echo across the ocean floor; guitars reverberate through sunken ships; dolphins and whales pass slowly through waters dark and light. One begins to sense that the box inclusions may also serve as metaphors. Cay‘s stones suggest the colors that decorate the seas. The music itself has been polished, as the piece existed for years before resting in its current form. Gurgles grow into expansive drones that threaten to overwhelm the ear before reluctantly retreating. The danger in the water has been averted.
Hellkvist has released some excellent works to date, but Cay may be his most effective. As a single track, it draws all the attention, remaining focused from beginning to end. He’s been edging in this direction for years, making longer and longer tracks (peaking with the 15-minute “Silver”), but this is his most extended work to date, and offers the sharpest dynamic contrast. Long-form work may turn out to be his calling. We’re looking forward to hearing more in this vein. (Richard Allen)