Ash 5.4LP/5.5CD – Hazard – Wood c/w Field / Bridge

CD + LP – combined format
Limited Edition 1000
The CD is in a printed slipcase inside the vinyl sleeve (both full colour)

CD – 6 tracks – 36:09

Track titles: Fibre Test / Cut Out Replay / Location South / Cords and Branches / Pylons / The Logfire

LP – 2 tracks – 35:24
Track titles: Bridge / Field


Auf Abwegen (Germany):
“Eine der besten Platten in 2000!”

Juno Reactor (USA):
Benny Nilsen’s 3rd foray as Hazard delves into the gray landscape of electro-acoustic, electronic minimalism, even more so than on the previous venture, North. The sonic topography is measured in electric particles and organic debris. This organic element almost lends the track human warmth-almost-because the warmth chills when one senses the undercurrent of electricity inherent within any given space. Concentrate long enough and the trace electricity becomes hypnotic. The melding of environmental sounds (the organic debris-wood, metal, movement) with the tempered minimalism (tones that hover, slowly throb, move to the centre and swiftly evaporate-an illusion because they are everywhere, at all times) succeeds on a level of creating an ambience of gray uncertainty. A landscape hinged to reality (shuffling in a shed, rustling fire, voices scratching the surface of sound), doused in the gentle waves of electricity, crashing on melted sand shores. Intriguing… 7/8 [JCSmith]

Paul Lloyd, Grooves (USA):
Ash International have come up with an interesting packaging concept for this release, Hazard’s second for the label. It consists of an album and CD, both with their individual sleeves and artwork, that together form a single piece of work. A great idea, but only available as a joint package with the first 1000 copies. The artwork itself shows images of trees and woodland scenery, photographed and designed by Jon Wozencroft. The music takes this theme a stage further, being recorded in the forest of Kungs Norrby in Borensburg, Sweden.

Influenced heavily by the international industrial scene, Benny Jonas Nilsen (Hazard) creates emotive ambient soundscapes, reminiscent of Biosphere but with darker overtones. Manipulated sound samples from the surrounding forest are combined with low drones, building the intensity and atmosphere slowly but deliberately. Like Biosphere, Hazard’s music takes the listener to another place, sending images cascading through the mind and captivating in an almost hypnotic way. Each track flows and relates to the next, making track names a formality, the package being an experience more than an album.
The beauty of the imagery on the sleeve is in stark contrast to the music contained within, raising the question of whether this is an statement regarding the destruction of forests and woodland world-wide. Combining the initial beauty of these images with dark soundscapes, utilising samples of wood being sawn, chopped, falling and being burnt adds to this theory. Whether this is Hazard’s intention is not clear, but it fits well with the mental images created when listening to this record and CD.

An excellent album, intense, darkly atmospheric, emotive and captivating. It certainly warrants looking out for more of Hazard’s work in the future. One thing though, I would advise against taking it for bedtime listening if you plan on going camping overnight in a remote forest, especially if you’ve seen the “Blair Witch Project” movie.

VITAL (Netherlands)
New music from Sweden’s Benny Nilsen, which follows his earlier, considerably more icy ‘North’ (1999) on the same label. Less cold, these sonic explorations cover 3 sides, two on vinyl and one on CD, both pristinely packaged by Jon Wozencroft (only for the first 1000 copies, mind you!). Immediate parallels between these ‘scapes and the work by Andrew Chalk and some of Hildegard Westerkamp’s output (‘Cricket Voice’ and ‘Beneath the Forest Floor’, both on her CD ‘Transformation’ released by empreintes DIGITALes, Canada). Two longish tracks on the vinyl (one of them infinite), and 6 on the CD – all of them evocative of desolation, like an old abandoned house deep in the woods, forgotten by all but time, which relentlessly softens it with crawling moss and alien fungi. Textures merge and create mute hybrids, bound by nature itself to keep its alchemy a secret. A place where even birds shut their beaks all the better to hear the course of new rot and the silky, rustling march of self-replicating, old growth. In the wood, branches snap and lunge from trees but never land, caught on their descent by webs of tangled growth, fringed and hazy with spiders’ nets and the knotted tassels of dangling, hollow exoskeletons of their foolish wandering victims. Conspiring insects oscillate, find their rhythm and settle down to hum. Condensed water drips rhythmically and undisturbed. Thunder yawns and spout forth, but in vain – the air itself is vapour here. A rusty hinge skirls like a sedated banshee. Then suddenly all sound stops. A moment has definitely passed and silence reigns briefly – frozen sound, almost a crystal, like those times when the King of the World utters a prophecy from his underground lair. Never too long, these combinations of mysterious field recordings made in the enigmatically-named Kungs Norrby forest in Sweden, and alone tones created at the Re-Enter Salvation Studio, stay somewhat furtive and close to the ground. Soundtracks for spaces where, for a while, humans have not trod. [MP]

Intuitive (Spain):
The 2nd solo release from Benny Nilsen An LP and CD packaged together in an LP jacket, with typically glorious Wozencroft designed visuals. There’s a twisted sense of complacency in the tracks such that they are almost guaranteed to find favour anyone who has followed the industrial scene from its early days (Hazard’s Benny Nilsen draws on influence’s from ‘old industrial’), but the challenge still remains for an effective fusion of ‘new school industrial’ with techno. Certainly Pan sonic occupy this territory, and further openings have been forced by the few willing to push the electro envelope.

re:mote induction (UK):
Wood is a curious release in that the first 1000 copies come with an LP, the LP containing as much extra music as the CD itself. Like most LPs Field/Bridge comes in a card sleeve, within which is a CD-sized card sleeve of a similar design – both decorated with various photos of trees and wood. While this is the second release by Hazard on ASH R.I.P., it is the first I have heard, though I have heard various pieces by Benny Jonas Nilsen’s previous project Morthond.

The CD has 6 tracks and starts with Fibre Test, a wavering higher pitched drone. With that there is a light shimmering bell sound and a clicking scratching loop. The chime becomes a pulsing ping layer and bass swells up. Within the risen sounds we can now hear several bells, pealing out like a church calling. A couple of minutes and the clicking increases in agitation, almost suggesting the microscopic growth and the stretching of bark. Cut Out/Replay follow with a sustained chime sound and the swirl of winds through the trees. Which gives a vague sensation of isolation. Warmth creeps in, a bassier edge and rounder feel to the chime and we have a suggestion of day time. There is a sound as of someone climbing out a tent – the strain of fabric and the echoing zip, with footsteps strain through the snow.

Thunder rumbles, approaching from Location South, and then there is the start of a light rain. Rain gathering momentum amongst the twigs that cover the forest floor. Branches groan and crack, the wood sounds very much audible. Location South continues with a more invasive wood sound, suggestive of doors creaking and banging while blocks collide. Cords And Branches hums with a little seesaw one-two sound looping intermittently. This provides a minimal minute, though rattling sounds creep in, followed by a sighing “on” sound. A sound triggering a bass humming and a slightly static suggestion. The on-ness sighs in the static and the forest motion rattles once more. All the elements assembled create a central droning sensation with gently bristling detail; leading Cords And Branches to a duration of 11 minutes.

The quieter hum of Pylons follows on, an easier sigh, though it gains a droning intensity. A high pitched sound can barely be heard around the edges but the hum is a warm concave signal. A mild lapping is suggested, transforming to a metallic trickle and a light wind. Leaving the conclusion of the Log Fire, a literal title as we hear the crackle of wood transformed to ash and the roar of oxygenation that drives that change. A loop rhythmic bet can be heard, along with a wheezing scrape of air. The beat is like a simple strike one-two but is joined by a high frequency oscillation and a bubbling click rhythm. The roar has died down by now and we’re left wit the motions of more microscopic sounds. Though approaching 5 minutes we strip down to a buzz edged drone layer, the edge developing a higher sound as it progresses to fade.

The LP itself contains one track per side these being Field and Bridge. The lengths of these two pieces about 15 minutes each, hence longer than any of the 6 pieces on the CD, even Cords And Branches’ 11 minutes. This gives you a chance to experience a continuation of the ideas of Wood, where all the source material was recorded in the forest of Kungs Norrby in Sweden. With both parts together Wood comes up to over an hour of sound, packaged in the complimentary photography of Jon Wozencroft.

City Newspaper, Rochester (USA):
Semiacoustic Nature – Mika Vainio, Kajo, Touch (TO:43) & Hazard, Wood & Bridge/Field, Ash International (Ash 5.4/5.5)
Later this summer, former Cabaret Voltaire member Chris Watson will receive an award of distinction in the digital music category at Austria’s Ars Electronica festival. But Watson hasn’t released a shred of digital music since stepping out from Voltaire 17 years ago. Instead, he’s been travelling the world, making field recordings of various natural phenomena. His second solo disc — the work for which he is receiving the award — is called Outside the Circle of Fire, and includes meticulously recorded animal sounds from locations in Zimbabwe, Scotland, Costa Rica, England, and elsewhere.

Ars Electronica 2000’s jurors are right on when they argue that the sounds he captures “would be just as well received in a concert of digital music.” Recordings of a male capercallie display or the songs of corncrakes could be outtakes from the latest Autechre album — off-kilter rhythms, foreign timbres.

Joe Banks takes a similar approach to pre-existing ambience for his Disinformation project, constructing dense collages of solar radio emissions and VLF broadcast data. He’s capturing sounds that occur naturally, functioning outside of a deliberate compositional framework.

These recordings provoke a ton of questions from their listeners: What’s the difference between background “noise” and music? How can we stamp authorship on naturally occurring sounds? It’s hard to get these questions, and the work of Watson and Banks, out of your mind when confronted with recent releases by Mika Vainio (Pan sonic) and Hazard (aka Benny Nilsen). Taking almost the exact opposite approach of Watson and Banks, Vainio and Nilsen construct mostly digital soundscapes that sound environmental.
Recorded in the forest of Kungs Norrby in Sweden, the source material for the Hazard release (a nifty package including one record and one CD) is the sound of trees rustling in the wind, sticks and branches crackling and snapping apart. Nilsen took the source material into his studio, adding wavering drones and beds of light static. The finished product is a remarkable simulation of a larger-than-life aural atmosphere. Low-end bass rumbles like thunder as electrified rain slowly crashes to the ground. Distant machinery tears the forest apart.

Vainio’s Kajo isn’t as blatantly natural, but it employs similar musique concrète techniques. When the CD starts you can hear Vainio walking into his studio, eventually flicking on the power switch to the machine that will serve as his sound source for Kajo. The music here is extremely minimal and thoughtfully composed; Vainio seems intent on capturing the glitchy nuances of his machine and constructing razor-sharp frequency waves and electronic mist. Pan sonic fans should note that Vainio calls Kajo the first album he’s completely satisfied with.

All of these recordings — the Watson, Vainio, Hazard, and any Disinformation material — will serve as excellent introductions to the digital-natural music-making fold. And many of them are beautifully packaged, including typically stunning photographs by Jon Wozencroft. [Chad Oliveiri]

6:2000 Westzeit (Germany):
Benny Jonas Nilsen mute den schwerlichen Weg ber OldSchoolIndustrial und ColdMeatIndustry whlen, um in den AshStallungen mit unter die Pferde gespannt zu
werden. Wood c/w Field/Bridge, als Vinyl/Cd Kombination, arbeitet mit im schwedischen Wald aufgenommen FieldRecordings, und digitalisiert diese zu einer preklaustrophobischen LandschaftsNeuinszenierung, deren subsonischer GrundDrone immer wieder von minimalistischer Rhythmusfraktur umgesetzt wird. [Tim Tetzner]

Freq Music E-Zine (web):
Benny Nilsen’s second record as Hazard comes as a CD and LP set (or at least the first thousand pressed do), with six tracks on the 36-minute digital unit and two more on the 35-minute vinyl. Odd as this might at first seem, the different media suit the resulting pieces quite well; having quiet glitchy runs of excoriated environmental sounds and thin reedy electronics (or are they? Maybe those sounds are made by a glass being run around the rim…? Or the hum of an electricity pylon…?) presented through the crystalline medium of CD certainly works in a different way than if they were back with the pops and clicks of a well-worn groove (though of course there is something to be said for vinyl deterioration in the right context – perhaps the CD tracks of Wood isn’t it though).
Likewise, the ambience of Field/Bridge comes partly from its analogue reproduction; though this could be auto-suggestion of course. The two tracks loop accretions of sound debris into slow building near-overloads, a process helped in its effectiveness by that extra vinyl warmth. With interjected squeaks, clattering objects and even what sounds like the microphone being swallowed to spice the rise and fall of humming noise up a little, each piece is allowed to grow naturally to a point where the intervention of Nilsen directs matters to the edges of bearabilty. Sometimes stark, the fragments of real-world sound bring each track around and back from the trap of excess noise for its own sake. Some of Wood is a bit like being shut in a lock-loop dream while someone moves around in the waking world perhaps, where extraneous, identifiable rustles and scrapes intrude but don’t really provide enough escape from the mechanistic nightmare.

Much of the reason this record works is due to the simple fact that Nilsen took himself of into the woods and recorded the sounds he found there, without taking the very fact of his moving around with the mic while doing so out of the eqation. He can make a virtue of the process itself, and this can be heard best on “Cords And Branches” and of course “The Logfire” on Wood, which are by no means straight recordings of one event, but more like the layered fragments of a particulr time or series of times placed in juxtaposition to each other. The results can be equally enveloping in a realist frame, or dissociative in an abstract context, sometimes simultaneously. Documentary or drama? Doesn’t matter really, in the end… it’s all sound, and both as simple and and potentially fictionalised as that. [Linus Tossio]

SideLine (UK):
Benny Nilsen’s third foray as Hazard delves into the gray landscape of electro-acoustic, electronic minimalism, even more so than on the previous venture, North. The sonic topography is measured in electric particles and organic debris. This organic element almost lends the tracks human warmth-almost–because the warmth chills when one senses the undercurrent of electricity inherent within any given space. Concentrate long enough and the trace electricity becomes hypnotic. The melding of environmental sounds (the organic debris-wood, metal, movement) with the tempered minimalism (tones that hover, slowly throb, move to the center and swiftly evaporate-an illusion because they are everywhere, at all times) succeeds on a level of creating an ambience of gray uncertainty. A landscape hinged to reality (shuffling in a shed, rustling fire, voices scratching the surface of sound), doused in the gentle waves of electricity, crashing on melted sand shores. Intriguing. (JCS:7/8) [JC Smith]

Outburn (USA):
Benny’s third release departs from his usual wash of droning sound for a found sound type of feel. On the LP and CD, each clocking in at about 35 minutes, he creates the experience of a trip through a forest dreamscape where it is never certain what is real and what is synthetic. The sounds are quite minimal, ranging from the lightest of crackles to the harshest of rumblings, and it’s rather captivating to try and figure out which were site recordings and which he created in the studio. Are those crickets or keyboards? I assume the titles of the three sessions – field, bridge and wood, refer to the sounscape he wants to evoke, and where he got his source material. While this may not be as lush as his two previous outings, it makes for an interesting hike.

The Sound Projector (UK):
This is the second release by Stockholm-based artist Benny Jonas Nilsen, and it’s quite a marked improvement on the rather gloomy Hazard from 1999, which was a cold and foggy episode. This new one, released in a unique packaging stroke which allows the benefit of both vinyl and CD, is derived from entirely from field recordings made in the forest of Kungs Norrby in Sweden. Don’t ask me how it’s done, because it’s difficult to identify anything natural on these strange recordings, since all the tapes have been extensively reprocessed and mixed in the studio. But this post-production is not a bad thing. By the 2nd track on the CD for example, we’re faced with some melancholy wails which are simply haunting – a bit like a processed bamboo flute. Like Michael Prime, Nilsen has found a way to give voice to nature, let the trees sing; and you need only to listen to assure yourself that somehow there is no other way that these sounds could have been generated. Nilsen however, still cannot resist adding a few traces of machine-derived sounds, and there are occasional brushstrokes of static, amplifier hum and feedback, but sparingly used so they do not mar the overall picture. The CD contains short episodes, while the vinyl delivers two extended drone works, one side serene and sturdy as a beech tree, the other slightly more threatening – perhaps prescient of the arrival of agricultural machinery or destruction of the landscape. The package is wrapped in some sumptuous photographs by Jon Wozencroft which, for once, are actually appropriate to the theme of the record; the cut tree stump with its concentric rings is a visual pun for the grooves of an LP. In all, an effective and sometimes moving hymn to the power and mystery of the forest. Ed Pinsent]