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Marcus Fjellström: Schattenspieler (Miasmah)

Swedish artist Marcus Fjellström’s third full-length under his own name comes from the esteemed Miasmah label, and its reputation for quality control remains firmly in tact with this one, too. Schattenspieler is a murky journey through a hazy, gloomy dreamworld. Technically this may qualify as ambient music, but it’s not restful. It’s tense without being menacing, somber without being morbid, and dramatic without feeling manipulative. Fjellström has a knack for combining atmosphere with musicality, letting the two complement each other without either one forcing the sound. Many of Schattenspieler’s tracks share common elements of reverberated atmospheres, dark drones and found sounds that clatter far-off. This lends the album a vague darkness that could possibly recall the sinister sounds of the Cold Meat Industry label, but Fjellström never pushes so far into territory that is so proudly evil. Instead, he opts for a balance of tension, tenderness and melancholy that feels at once both personal and cinematic. Titles like “Noir Revisited” provide an obvious nod to the latter; that particular track brims with tense tremolo strings and drones which would work as well on the silver screen following someone home as it does on headphones without visuals. The visual impression I’m left with is equal parts Eraserhead and Last Year at Marienbad, for those art-film geeks reading. “Antichrist Architecture Management” is a highlight with its old-school arpeggio synths and organ drones, a dense layer of surface hiss taking on a prominent supporting role. As a matter of fact, it’s worth noting that this album has quite a lot of hiss on its tracks, a sound that enhances the experience, taking you further into Fjellström’s strange, foggy world. He has a keen understanding of space, texture and silence… never overcrowding his tracks, letting them breathe while each takes on a life of its own. Highly recommended, one of the best soundtracks of the year.

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