This review was written at night to miror its time of composition. In Christian Balvig‘s building, 9:00 p.m. is quiet time, even for a famous orchestra member, composer, film scorer, and Efterklang collaborator. Balvig turned his keyboard volume down so low that the notes were barely audible, and wrote devoid of distraction, surrendering to the solitude and space. Building on earlier sketches, improvisations and live recordings, he constructed an ode to the night.
The album begins humbly: sounds rescued from the past, painted over with new notes. One hears strings being erased but not eradicated, melodies stripped to impression like color bleached from the skies. But an overall tone remains; just as the sky is never entirely black, nor is this music ever bleak.
When combined, the titles form a poem: In the night / we stumble upon a planet / a spider’s web. / Inside us / everything’s coloured. / Around us / waiting bliss / reverberating / the overlooked views / where all is. These lines may form a written outline, but for those who listen rather than read, a different narrative develops, shaped by three brief segments of dialogue, each revolving around concepts of color. “A Spider’s Web” is filled with the awe of “infinite beauty,” a starstruck speaker attempting to put into words what she is seeing. Strings and piano enfold her like a shawl of stars. For the first time on the album, the drums come out, soundtracking her excitement. “Everything’s Coloured” takes up where the other piece ends, as a narrator laments that she can’t see color, but lives in a monochromatic world. Balvig decorates her words with field recordings and melodies, perhaps prompting some inner synaesthesia that might serve in color’s stead.
“Around Us” draws lines to prior tracks; the words of “A Spider’s Web” are suggested through the returning drums, while wordless vocals connect back to “We Stumble Upon a Planet.” Night is not only solitude, but a feeling of being part of an infinite whole. In “Waiting Bliss,” a final monologue speaks of empathy and connection. The pianist is alone, surrounded by others who are also alone, surrounded by the enveloping night. “Reverberating” embodies these layers through an expansion of brass and strings. Suddenly we notice that we’re not on a separate island. (Richard Allen)