Alog, one of the most incongruous and original acts of modern-day Norwegian music released their seventh album Amateur this week.
Alog, what is Alog? Not a trunk of timber, but two conceptual artists that have found a unique musical expression in meticulously sewn collages of infinite detail. Coming from academic arts, and high philosophy, it is perhaps not unexpected that these guys – Espen Sommer Eide and Dag-Are Haugan- take their work seriously and manifest conceptions of music that in many ways run counter to some of the paradigmatic truths of the psychology of music, such as the primacy of audibility.
Alog pay minute attention to things not even audible. “We can spend days removing or adding micro-entities that no human ear can hear” they have confessed. –“And weeks on making cleavages and seams between elements perfectly not-perfect, beyond perceptibility.” Or perhaps it is as with those photos inserted into the 24 frames of film rolls, those dirty ones in Fight Club, which no-one sees, yet every sub consciousness has appropriated.
Their art is just as much in the process –in what they know and what they do- as in any aural result it seems: The tree in the forest does make sound even if unheard, and extra-musical information can cause a complete gestalt-switch of the audible music (something Alog alluded to with the title of their third album “Duck Rabbit”).
Most often categorized as electronica, but belonging just as much to contemporary composition and avant-garde; with walls of guitars and droning techno too, what is most striking about their tunes is the utter thingliness that seems to have been captured. As with a magnifying glass -and with great patience- they approach things and their movements and physical properties to such a degree of intimacy that one can almost imagine them watching a piece of wood slightly twist as the temperature sinks at sunset, and recording the next-to soundless creaks that are thus produced. Then they loop and reverse and cut and paste and edit and puzzle and piece and play:
“Each Alog track is its own small world with its own internal logic.” (Pitchfork, on “Miniatures”)
This is not to say that what they are up to is quiet contemplative music -obsessed, as so many are these days, with silence- it is just that the detail and the “thingly” materiality of the instruments and sounds is always brought to the fore. As “the Wire” said of their third album Miniatures from 2005:
“It’s music that sounds like a group of amnesiacs had awoken from a deep slumber in a room full of old instruments and were slowly, tentatively reacquainting themselves with their possible musical functions.” (The Wire, UK)
Still, it is electronic music, for computers are the sewing machines with which they piece together their meticulous jigsaw. The fabric of the jigsaw, or the collage perhaps; the strips of cloth, the thread and colours and all the diverse material they interlace, are mostly analogue sounds and played instruments. But Alog’s music is more than anything a matter of editing; down to a degree of detail that surpasses anything in the world of music. A song can take months, an album years. Their second album “Duck Rabbit” from 2001, by themselves categorized as their take on pop music, was the result of careful editing and compression of long, long jams into dense pieces.
And over the years they have also started writing their own software and plug-in edits, like old fashioned instrument making; an absorbing enterprise that entails utmost commitment to details, it is a way of life, one could argue. And it is perhaps the same phenomenon as with the meticulous detail of the music: Alog go deeper into the craft of piecing together music, and deeper into the study of sounds, than is perhaps warranted by the listening public. But then again, they play at places called things like “Artes y Technologia:” museums, galleries and in general, places where music is not the “sing-along, here we come” phenomenon, but rather more conceptually scrutinized.
Despite the minuteness of the musical process, Alog are prolific. From their debut in 1999; “Red Shift Swing” they have now reached their seventh release. “Duck Rabbit” came in 2001, “Miniatures” and “Catch that Totem” in 2005, “Just Recording” last year, and now “Amateur” is out. Alog will play at Blå in Oslo on Friday the 27th.