“Sleppet” reviewed by The Sound Projector

Sleppet began lifein 2007 with a collection of nature recordings made in Norway. Chris Watson, Steve Roden, Jana Winderen and other minimal-environmental geniuses were not far away from him at the tie, and the record cover of this nature-worshipping release unfolds to reveal visual cutups of a silvery forest. The location in Norway was not an accident, and the project apparently involved some conceptual connection to the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, with his song cycle dedicated to mountain and fjord, whose ideas about the power of nature and its effect on the artistic temperament were, I suspect, far darker and less benign than the painter and art historian John Ruskin in this country.

Sleppet is an assemblage, a post-facto meditation on sound sources which adds layers of fiction and powerful ideas to what are already quite potent events. Where other field recording experts give us unadorned documentation, Behrens cannot resist adding treatments and effects, bringing out the inner core and hidden meanings of these sounds. His familiar near-silent treatments aren’t so much in evidence, but his editing scalpel is still as sharp as ever. Strong dynamics are executed with the ruthlessness of a military onslaught, contrasting extreme alien terrors with small, gentle and familiar things, like pages from a naturalist’s notebook. These vivid recordings of seagulls, water, stones, cattle, sheep and glaciers have been spliced into carefully-planned linear sequences intended to reveal certain conceptual things about nature. One thing folds into another, layering imaginary transparencies together to solve the enigmas of creation.

Behrens succeeds in rendering nature as a powerful and unknowable force, verging o dangerous. Very much so as t happens, since Behrens came within an inch of being crushed by a collapsing glacier when he was recording his melting water-droplet episodes. It’s probably significant that the record’s final part is heavily dominated by industrial machinery, and its monotonous whine spreads a blanket of unchanging deathliness in stark contrast to all the preceding materials, whose strongest characteristic has been their tremendous variety and vitality. The message from that is fairly clear, but it’s reassuring that mechanization and industrialization still don’t have the last word on this hymn to the power of nature. Sleppet posits a severe and almost bleak view of wildlife, weather and the elements, a view so cold and unforgiving that you can almost imagine yourself wandering alone during the Mesozoic era when you spin this stark twig of a disk. Ed Pinsent

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