Years ago, renowned film director Derek Jarman filmed a daring film called Blue where the viewers could only see a blue screen behind which the sounds from the scenes could be heard but not seen. This way, the viewers imagined the film based on the dialogues and the sound they heard, and placed their own images onto the blue screen. In a similar manner, renowned producer Jan Bang makes music with a strong cinematic flair that functions as a soundtrack for an imaginary film. As best seen on his debut ...and poppies from Kandahar (Samadhi Sound, 2011) or his own productions, Bang's compositional thinking is cinematic, utilizing jump-cuts, fade-ins and fade outs to create a flow of imaginary scenes and sonic images. His music could broadly be classified as ambient, experimental or electro-acoustic chamber music. These descriptions may give an idea of what his music might sound like, but that won't reveal what the music feels like.
On Narrative from the Subtropics he weaves a sequestered accompaniment that draws on a number of sources and influences in order to achieve its kaleidoscopic and otherworldly sounds and moods. Picturesque and evocative by nature, his sonic palette is incredibly broad throughout: it consists entirely of ambient drifts, sculpted fragments and contributions by a plethora of guests like singer David Sylvian, guitarists Eivind Aarset and Stian Westerhus, pianist Tigran Hamasyan, keyboardist Erik Honore and many others. The pieces, which are simultaneously fascinating, compelling and sometimes eerie, vary in length and they deliver plenty of ideas and delicate beauty in their short length and this restraint makes it a more powerful work.
From the opening "Iron Balcony" until the closing "Life Boat" the album progresses in a dreamlike fashion as the invisible narrative transitions between profound and obscure themes and forms. Sometimes these sound creations resemble little islands connected by an invisible thread. Bang carves out these unique ambient creations sometimes by using a surreal use of color, tone and texture that are embroidered within the collage that this record is. More interesting than the sounds themselves are the intelligence and sensitivity of their deployment, the constant attention to weight, color, and direction. Overall, it is simultaneously a very minimal and a very complex piece of writing. And, while it is intricate and sometimes alien, still this adds warmth, resonance and a sense of discovery to his musical chiaroscuro.
With this set Bang has managed to achieve what rarely has been done in this era: to open ears to new sonic possibilities. The intriguing confluences of sounds and moods, and the dramatically orchestrated peaks and valleys, Narrative from the Subtropics penetrates many sonic spaces that were unseen and unheard of until now.
Iron Balcony; Singer's Ashes; Tide; Smashing Windows; The Deep Serene; Singer's
Childhood; Funeral Voyage; Interlude (Night Creatures); Melee of Suitcases; Artificial
Reeves; Sinking Ship; Flooded Corridors; Lifeboat.
Jan Bang: Akai sampler (1-13), programming (1-7, 9-13), synthesizer (3, 5), mpc (7),
dictaphone (7), kaoss pad (10); Nils Chr. Moe Repstad: voice; Eivind Aarset: sampled
guitar (2), guitars (3, 5, 7), bass (7); Sidsel Endresen: vocal (3, 9); Lars Danielsson:
double bass (3); Undark: organ (3); Erik Honoré: field crickets (3), synthesizer (7); Arve
Henriksen: sampled trumpet (4), trumpet (6, 8, 11); Tuule Kann: vocal (6), kannel (6);
Tigran Hamasyan: piano (6); Robert Jürjendal: guitars (6); Stian Westerhus: sampled
guitar (6), guitar (8); Nils Petter Molvæer: trumpet (7); Dai Fujikura: piano (9),
electronics (9), cello samples (12); David Soler: sampled guitar (11).