Jarl – Amygdala Colours – Hemisphere Rotation CD Reverse Alignment 2016
Following the epic 2 x CD ‘Case 1959’ from 2015 (reviewed here), Jarl returns in 2016 with a single CD featuring one track at 56 minutes in length. On the thematic front, Jarl has conceptual moved from ‘external’ influencing concepts, to matters of the ‘interior’ and I quote: “electronic and acoustic sounds for the processing of memory, decision-making, and emotional reactions. For the left sides of Amygdala”.* With this thematic underpinning, the use of concepts in dark ambient music warrants comment given it provides a ‘thinking’ element to latch on to when listening. This has been positively demonstrated on recent Jarl albums, where there has been a strong thematic underpinning for each, even if ‘technically’ speaking the sonics do not vary widely between albums. Yet in such examples as Jarl, personally I see the use of theme as a bonus, by constituting an ‘idea’ to contemplate and turn over in one’s mind when listening to the album.
But with all that is said on use of themes above, even if you were to ignore any conceptual trappings, the music here can stand on its own as an immersive and contemplative experience. Likewise by now with the number of albums released under the Jarl banner, there is likely to be a general appreciation of what is to be expected – and that being an album of minimalist dark ambient soundscapes and slow morphing sonics which balances on an edge between the clinical and darkly tinged. Given the single lengthy composition an elongated approach has again been adopted, which by very nature slowly evolves throughout. Clinical, multi-layered drones ebb and flow, where there is a refined level of attention to sonic detail (…given then is upwards of half a dozen individually discernible layers at any one time). Essentially it amounts to tonal soundscape constructed around shimmering drones, pulsing/ throbbing elements and other various textural layers are constantly shifting, intertwining and evolving (…and on occasion partially replicating discordant orchestral strings). Tonally deep and ‘hollow’, there is also a bulk, thickness and clarity to the production, which again provides an enveloping listen (…and particularly so when listening to this through headphones).
As with all of Jarl’s output I have heard, I certainly enjoy the experience, although I would be hard pressed to say this is comparatively better (…or worse?) than anything else I have heard from the project. So if you know and like Jarl based on previous output, this will deliver an expected and enjoyable listen, yet equally, if Jarl is simply not known, this is as good a place to start. Finally the mini-gatefold cardboard cover, with photography by Karolina Urbaniak is suitably abstract to suit the soundscapes found within.
* – The ‘amygdala’ is an almond-shape set of neurons located deep in the brain’s medial temporal lobe, which play a key role in the processing of emotions, and linked to fear and pleasure responses. In humans and other animals its size correlates with aggressive behavior across species, and in humans has been noted to shrink by more than 30% in males upon castration. Conditions such as anxiety, autism, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and phobias are also suspected of being linked to abnormal functioning of the amygdala.