Glim is grounded from the outset in a sense of place. Or is it? Although field recordings are an important part of the artist who goes under the moniker KMRU’s own listening practice and sonic output, the opening track of Glim is a bit of a trick. It’s emphasis on the rustling of the wind and the trees, the privileging of children’s voices sounding as though they are at play, the chirping of birds, is an outlier on the record, which otherwise takes more musical approaches to sound.
Not that the first track “motley,” isn’t musical. Wavering drones are present from the beginning, always threatening to eliminate the children’s voices entirely but never quite succeeding, the voices bubbling up at moments throughout the song.
The opener also introduces other elements that will recur throughout the album’s twelve track run-time: brief two and three note melodies that repeat and repeat: droning tones that noticeably ascend in volume while their descent escapes notice, a play between harsh and gentle sounds and volume.
The sound of children’s voices is less common across the album though. Brief fragments of voice do recur on several other tracks, as does the rustling sound of the wind that often indicates real space, but only infrequently, and never for long. Most tracks on the album instead spend time creating a dialogue between persistent droning and the faintest suggestions of melody.
The austerity of the album’s melodies are matched by the richness and number of sonic textures KMRU explores; strings, piano, scraping dissonance, and gentle hum. A number of the tracks verge on aggressively loud at moments, and almost all have at least a moment or hint of piercing sound, recalling the artist’s collaboration last year with Aho Ssan on Limen. Some tracks including “options” and “tor,” embrace the quieter side of ambient exploration that KMRU has explored on earlier albums at length, layering in noise through more delicate means such as crinkly hums, the tinkling of bells, and the sound of radio scans.
Album closer “side curves” is a highlight. It begins very slowly, builds up and up and up in volume and dynamics, before concluding with an achingly lovely, reverb-drenched melody, alien-like bleeps and signals darting rapidly across it before it is abruptly cut off.
There’s a lot to feel with on Glim as KMRU experiments with a wider dynamic range and a diverse array of sonic textures than on earlier solo albums such as last year’s Epoch. There is still a lot of delicate beauty here but it feels more under threat, whether by timbral effects such as a drone’s warbling or wavering, by piercing volume, or by the multiplication of sonic layering and crushing volume. A sense of place too, a real sense of place, is threatened by technology, its ability to manipulate and fabricate, to overlay and overlap. The limited play with field recording across a quite noisy and sonically dense album might perhaps be interpreted then as an acknowledgment of the perennial threat that someday we ourselves may not be able to locate the natural. (Jennifer Smart)