There is something almost scientific at play on this, one of the most startling albums to have seen the light in this first half of 2014. Klara Lewis may be a newcomer to Editions Mego’s much-vaunted stable of electronic craftspeople, but Ett is the work of a gifted and thoughtful sound sculptress, who combines found sounds, field recordings and electronic textures to create beguiling and resonant works that operate on all manner of levels, and in which individual sounds are dissolved of context to create a fresh subliminal narrative.
On first hearing, the first comparison that sweeps to mind is with London-based sonic construction artist Luke Younger, aka Helm, who similarly twists and rearranges his source material to create tracks that dissolve the boundaries between song formats and abstract reflections of landscapes – in his case, evoking urban London. In Klara Lewis’ case, however, the resultant tracks are more intimate, delicate and therefore even more esoteric. Rather than creating a reflection of our reality – albeit a distorted one, as Helm does – Lewis’ collection evolves discreetly, its references veiled as textures shift, as if she is allowing the listener fleeting glimpses into her perspective on the world.
One of the album’s standout creations (the word ‘tracks’ seems somehow unsatisfying), ‘Shine’ encapsulates the nebulous reality of Ett. Lewis entwines gossamer samples that sound like gasping air vents around a rumbling background drone and the faintest hint of a synth melody, creating a form of ambient music that is simply too tenacious to count as background music, its emotional heft a constant attention draw, much like the work of Boards of Canada or Ezekiel Hönig.
Elsewhere, as on opener ‘c a t t’, Lewis displays a rhythmic balance that edges towards ambient dub, as crackling synth pulsations are allied to deep bass grooves through which weave dreamlike piano notes. There’s a jocular flexibility at play on Ett, as Lewis nudges her music in various directions before pulling back into a track’s original structure.
‘Muezzin’ starts unsurprisingly with a distant echo of a call to prayer, before pitching away from any formal recognition into an abstract sonic realm of oppressive rumbles and jangles, which sound like Lewis is recording from inside a piano that is itself locked within an empty warehouse.
The lengthy ‘Altered’, meanwhile, is a slow-burning exercise in restraint and near-silence, with individual sounds creeping out of a quiet, hazy ether before receding almost as quickly, much like the material on Robert Rich and Lustmord’s Stalker. As with the rest of Ett, it achieves the remarkable in combining minimalism with evocative atmospherics, destabilising the listener along the way to creating a wide-reaching and haunting sonic universe.