Ash 6.5 – Hazard – Wind

CD, 8 track, 50:01

Artwork by Jon Wozencroft

Track listing and notes:
1. Stream
Today will drift (and become stationary)
2. Barrier
Barriers are built to withstand hurricane force winds and debris thrown by a raging storm
3. Downslope [Foehn]
There are four significant factors associated with the development of major downslope wind events:
(1) Strength of the cross-barrier flow (at about 850mb)
(2) Magnitude of the cross-barrier pressure gradient (measured as MSLP)
(3) A layer of stable air near ridge crest with lower stability above
(4) Presence of a critical level
4. Village
An energetic storm… centred near the four corners
5. Shear Line
A shear line is a narrow zone across which there is an abrupt change in the horizontal wind component
6. Anemo
The Airflow Anemo wind speed and strength cup Anemometer is a highly versatile instrument perfect for all those who need to measure outdoor conditions, accurately and economically. Ergonomically designed for one handed operation the meter is weather resistant and ruggedly constructed to withstand everyday use. Reading directly in km/h, m/sec and knots, Anemo also indicates wind strength in the Beaufort scale. Using the inter-nationally accepted rotating cup principle, accurate and comparative readings are repeatedly achieved even in gusty, uni–directional wind conditions.
7. Sough
sigh, moan, wail, swish; or v. sugh [Robert Burns]
NOUN: A low, indistinct, and often continuous sound: mumble, murmur, sigh, susurration, susurrus, whisper
VERB: To make a low, continuous, and indistinct sound: murmur, sigh, whisper [Roget’s Thesaurus]
8. Landmass
The west wind brings showers

The new album from Hazard, ‘Wind’, is a collaboration between Benny Jonas Nilsen and Chris Watson, who provided wind recordings for Benny to incorporate into his compositions.

BJNilsen writes: “I had been working on this project about wind and weather for about half a year, recording and putting together sounds from various locations in the USA, Canada and Sweden. I was really happy with a great deal of it but less enthusiastic about the rest, in particular the pure wind recordings. Anyone who tries to record in the open air with primitive or less than professional equipment knows that it’s not easy getting good sound and avoiding distortion in the microphones. I did however catch some fine air movement in trees, branches grass and hail or thunderstorms.

Later Mike Harding and I had a discussion about Chris Watson’s work and he convinced me that we should try to ask him if he had some recordings that could be useful.

Coincidentally Chris had just finished a radio program about wind for the BBC and he had a tape ready which I could use. This was a great honour and relief for me to be able to take hold of such professionally recorded material which could easily stand on its own but [obviously] I wanted to do something else with it, incorporating nature and technology, and in conjunction with each other I created these pieces.” Stockholm, 15th March 2001

Wind Recordings by Chris Watson:
Heartbeat 3 [used on track 1], Windy Meadow [1,8], Glen Affric [3], Through Junkus [4], Strong Winds Through Ditch… [5], Glaswegian B&B – high [5,6], Low Pressure [6,7], The Lapaich [7]

1: Low Pressure [cf. Stepping into the Dark Touch # TO:27, 1996]
The remarkable thing here, in Glen Cannich, was that I could walk through the foci of these wind sounds within a few paces, as if being part of some great instrument. The blast here was so strong that it took some time to fix the microphones securely — I felt surrounded by the full force of the elements being channelled through this site, and wanted the recording to reflect the bent double posture and sheer physicality I was experiencing. I cabled back 50 or 60m to a sheltered position and managed to run the tape for almost ten minutes before the microphones were blown over.

2: Glaswegian B&B – high
During November 1990 I was in Glasgow for the European Film Festival. Accommodation was hard to find and I ended up staying in an old townhouse bed & breakfast place down near the River Clyde. My room had that rather cheesy secondary double glazing where plastic panels are fixed on the inside of the original window frames. That night a strong westerly wind blew up and whistled through the gaps around the edge of the window panels. At 0234h that night I realised there was no alternative but to record this remarkable event and I fixed a Tram TR50 capsule into the gap and recorded this sound on my Nagra SNN.

3: Through Junkus
Across moorland and high, wild places tall — almost luminescent tussocks of junkus grow in blooms around the edges of wet pasture, bog and marsh. On the island of Islay by Glacan Daraich one night in late June a low gusting wind catches the circular stems of this rough grass and a whispering chorus of voices hiss in alarm to the microphones.

4: Corncrake ditch and power lines
Gun metal grey clouds roll off the Atlantic and blow out of the west across the isle of Coll. Below, on Machair Mhor cables snake through a deep, lush channel of flora bordering the field edge and 160 meters away the transient presence of that acoustic is monitored and recorded with anticipation…

5: Glen Affric
A long, distant pouring sound that fills the glen and rolls up the sides. The full tone is best heard by looking east at Athnamulloch.

6: The Lapaich
The wedge shaped summit of Sgurr na Lapaich is over 1000m and half way up with a westerly wind I saw this sound flow across the peak — nothing happened… I looked down into the glen and the waters of Beinn a Mheadhoin — nothing happened… Then light, temperature and air pressure changed dramatically before I could switch into record.

7: Heartbeat 3
Female Sparrowhawk incubating four eggs in a high canopy of Sitka spruce, Kielder forest. Calm.


BBC Online (UK):
Over the last few years there have been a glut of records released that document the sound of the world doing its own thing in a variety of ways; Alan Lamb’s telegraph wires whistling in the wind, Chris Watson’s wildlife recordings, Joe Banks and Stephen McGreevy’s VLF radio recordings of solar storms and leaf static and so on. While none of this may be music in the strictest sense of the word, some of the results have been as strange and beautiful as any contemporary electronica, and a vindication of Cage’s idea that there’s enough to listen to in the world without resorting to music. Wind is the work of Hazard, aka Swedish sound artist B. J. Nilsen (as well as a large variety of meteorological phenomena, who presumably don’t get royalties). Unlike the purely documentary work of those mentioned above, Nilsen has subjected his raw material of wind recordings (much of it gathered by Chris Watson for a Radio 4 programme) to extensive digital processing, much like the work of Matmos or Steve Roden. Using filtering, harmonisation and sundry other techniques, Nilsen alchemically transforms this source material into a set of ambient pieces of unearthly beauty. Deep bass drones, gentle, sighing tones and crackles morph gently into another; occasionally the recognisable sound of wind on water or through leaves can be heard, or the deep breath of moving air as it caresses the microphone diaphragm. Nilsen conjures up the same sense of place that Brian Eno’s On Land manages, each piece having its own distinctive, immersive soundworld. Sometimes a more conventionally ‘musical’ aesthetic emerges; the long “Anemo” even features an almost techno-esque bass pulse at its close, while the gorgeous “Landmass” pitches plaintive, shimmering melodics over a deep sine tone in a piece which evokes Eno’s best work. This is stuff that repays deep, close listening; definitely album of the year material. [Peter Marsh]

Confronted with the technical difficulties of recording the wind, Hazard’s BJ Nilsen turned to field recording specialist Chris Watson, who fortuitously had just completed a BBC documentary on the very subject (ah, to live in a country with arts funding!). These unadorned documents Hazard reshapes into subtly sublime cross-sections of invisible impulse. The result is a spellbinding blast of sound that charges, feints and double backs to resume its soft pummelling. Whereas Hazard’s Wood crept across the soundfield as imperceptibly as the expanding rings of an ancient oak, Wind is charged with conflicting gusts of energy, flitting hither and yon around you, a simultaneous buffeting and embrace. [Philip Sherburne]

remote induction (UK):
Wind follows Hazard’s last release on the UK label ASH Wood, like that release this is based on environmental recordings. However with this release Swedish Nilsen encountered problems recording source material that he was entirely happy with. The result was the remainder of the field recordings were supplied by Chris Watston; who is also involved with the Touch/Ash scene as well as being a professional sound recordist. The result is an 8 track release which comes in a fold out digi pack sleeve, with the initial statement from Nilsen the fold out contains track notes from both Nilsen and Weston regarding the sources of the sounds and the ideas of the tracks. Stream is the first track and comes with the comment “today will drift (and become stationery)” along with a description of the rough landscape of Glen Cannich where the wind sounds were recorded, with the effect this had on the wind flows. The sound itself starts as a low hum, rising slightly as we can hear the electronic, glitch edged crackle developing. Wisps of sound flit and hint, while that glitched impact bursts forth and fades by turns. At the core a vibrant drone sustains through this stray detail. Rustles and mild crackles mix in as the sweep continues to come up in the mix, gaining an impression of new direction. With this there is a reinforced density to the sound, a more solid ridge through the layers. The wind elements give a ragged feel to parts of this flow, contributing to the tactile sensation of the sound. as it fades off it is this raggedness that survives longest.With the statement “barriers are built to withstand hurricane force winds and debris thrown by a raging storm” the next piece is titled Barriers. Watson’s notes describe how he recorded the sounds from his room in a bed and breakfast just off the River Clyde on one visit to Glasgow. Given the description of barriers provided this comes from a subdued sound level to start with, a bare drone low and on a tight loop – though dull strikes and distant pops start to dabble that surface with their presence. The minimal suggestion of this piece remains, a background subliminalism with the clacks as reminders of its presence. Though there is an increasing level of detail with its continuation.

Downslope [Foehn] comes with longer notes from Nilsen, which discuss the various factors which determine the development of a “downslope wind event”. The source sound this time comes from moorland recordings, the wind through rough grasses on the island of Glacan Daraich. From the start this is minimal, working through a rounded pulse tone that builds from nothing. An almost whistling impression as it weaves through surrounding silence, rising to an increasingly piercing impression, backed by a complimentary breath. Which comes up as a bass drone, warbling around the edge, a heavier and more grounded sound than the tone which remains on high. There is a tolling sound, dull chime, against the rise of a rustle/scraping motion. With this pulsed layers mix in, deliberate cut electronics and extended weaves. This mixes impressions of coherent streams against objects affected by this passage, providing a slowly agitated whole.As this fades in an extended manner there is a light chromatic edged line of notes that starts to come up which carries the album on to Village, “an energetic storm…centred near the four corners”. Sounds this time have the contrasts of power cables and the local flora on Machair Mhor. In some this is the most pronounced piece so far, the sweep of those early sounds is careful, rounded and perhaps warm – with knowledge of sources involved indicating the rigid give of the cable. Contrasting that is the ragged passage of wind, not out of hand at this point, but certainly suggesting a cold motion, partially caught by the recorders and evidently more than a light breeze. The result is an evocative piece.

“A shear line is a narrow zone across which there is an abrupt change in the horizontal wind component” the notes for Shear Line explain. Low tones rasp slightly, building from barely audible levels by increments. Punctuated by periodic, hollow pulses that add to the waver of the more pronounced level. An edged pneumatic line provides a certain cut against the building layers, waspish bass vibration against the shimmering contrasts. The piece does not become overstated, suggestive against lapping tides and part layers.Another long description explains the ideas behind Anemo, which relate to a measure of wind speed and the design of a meter to monitor this measure. This time backed by the wind flows round the “wedge shaped summit of Sgurr na Lapaich”. A piece which teases out its development, low wind in the mix against rubs that set off light strokes and impressions. With that the sound created is expressive, held back to restrained layers, but in the process capturing an impression as intended. With an increased crackle bass starts to rise, a coherent tone forming the drone of a distant flight path. This draws the listener in, while retaining an overall slight construction. Another phase comes around contrasting the particulate hisses with the solid bass. Progressing further we can hear a dull pulse within that as the foreground drifts take on a more pronounced sequence – humming, pulsing, light strokes all joining in the layers.The last of the pieces with contribution of samples by Weston is Sough, which uses sounds in Kielder Forest described as calm. With this piece Nilsen provides a quote from Robert Burns along with definitions of the word sough. A couple of layers come up, both bass tinged, one is a slow floating extension, the other more fluid in its motion and rounded in its tone. These mix off each other, interacting to provide a wavering whole. Other elements come in, on one level at the edges and barely audible and on another a blunt addition which threatens to distort and break up. Restrained barely realised agitation carried within the timbres of this sound. Glitch suggestion comes with a crackling stream winding into the droning body, inducing the odd pop and emphasising things which are hinted at.

The album finishes off with Landmass, “the west wind brings showers”. More stripped than Sough’s conclusion, humming tones in close layers, building with breezes whispering through. A gentle progress, the hums warm and complimentary while the winds are mild and only the slightest contrast to the core. There is a mild crackling added as micro details within the predominant sound levels, bare against the drifts. [RVWR: PTR]

Outburn (USA):
Benny Jonas Nilsen’s third release for Ash continues in the same vein as North and Wood, using site recordings of natural locations as material for an experimental meditation. Using recordings from a BBC radio documentary on wind, this CD falls somewhere in the middle of the more layered feel of north and the ultra minimalism of Wood. Sometimes he approaches ambient electronica, but always with crackling rumbling sounds. Sometimes it sounds like flat-out experimental noodling. Wind is a very evocative release that draws you into its depths on repeated listenings. (Web):
Benny Nilsen is something of a Swedish industrial/soundscape whizkid. He was only a teen when he started releasing records with Mortho(u)nd. Now in his mid-twenties he is still the youngest of the bunch at Ash/Touch. I guess he never will be old. Wind is his fourth CD under his Hazard nomme-de-plume and I think his absolutely best so far. The earlier CDs on Ash, North and Wood, had different themes, but I guess Wind has more to offer soundwise. But if you’re expecting leaves that fall on an autumn day, think again. Hazard manipulates their sound into an organic sounding piece of, eh, music. Chris Watson, of Cabaret Voltaire and Hafler Trio fame, has contributed with recordings of wind and thunder. Although Nilsen is a great fan of Chris Watson there is no way of telling when Watson’s raw material ends and Hazard’s begins or where the electronic manipulation ends. Hazard has, like that great German Werkbund, a habit of making multidimensional music. If you play their records on low volume, you hear one record – usually a rather smoothing one – but if you raise the volume a whole lot of other records come through, nastier and much more challenging. And I guess you know in your hearts in which way I want you to listen to it. [Jonas Kellagher]

Bizarre (UK):
Benny Nilsen uses the sounds of wind. Some of it is a collaboration with field recordist Chris Watson, whose experience in capturing sounds as ethereal as as those of wind overcame the more difficult recording processes. Hypnotic, rushing electronica builds and mutates, yet somehow defies the tracks’ ambient structure and source.

The Wire (UK):
Benny Jonas Nilsen (aka Hazard) began this album by collecting recordings of the tumult of wind and weather, yet confessed that he was stymied by his less than professional equipment. Fortunately his labelmate, the field recordist Chris Watson, came to his rescue by giving Hazard access to his recently completed series of wind recordings for a BBC documentary. Watson’s materials permitted hazard to add a deal of contrasting colour to the cold, grey timbres of his original electroacoustic drones. Juxtaposing these different sources through laptop synthesis, Hazard evokes the majesty of westerlies whipping around mountainous peaks, the unsettling whistles of wind creeping through antique window frames and the distant crack of thunder. Fortunately, Hazard’s existentially bleak, post-industrial pedigree prevents his droning Ambient passages from rubbing shoulders with New Age meditations on the beauty of nature. [Jim Haynes]

The Sound Projector (UK):
An interesting joint project, credited to Benny Nilsen of Stockholm. Nilsen had been recording in the open air for several months, and after he’d been mistaken for a scarecrow for the 15th time, Mike Harding finally put him in touch with the UK’s finest nature documentarian and wildlife recorder, Chris Watson. The eight tracks of Wind started with recordings of the wind, originally made by Watson, then highly reprocessed and reworked by Hazard. Watson provides his commentary in terms of when and where he captured these sounds, and and the equipment he used. he is, as ever, rigorously precise about geographic locations, time of day, and the direction he was facing at the time. He is attuned to the environment, local place names, local wildlife, and can describe weather conditions with an elegant simplicity. Nilsen is likewise clued up about technical weather terms, alternating these with ‘quoted’ weather reports in his notes. The music might seem quiet in places, but the quietness conceals an inner strength of pure iron. Groove for groove, the surface is more electronic than field recording, and if you’d come in ‘blind’ you might mistake it for ordinary Ambient. But the deep power of the nature shines through on every track. Especially on the haunting ‘Village’ track, which includes an ‘energetic storm’, and the increasingly brooding drama of ‘Anemo’. I could ‘air’ my single reservation and ask, must every sound in nature end up only to be used as a sample inside a laptop? Is nothing safe from this international project to capture all sound? But this fear is probably groundless in this instance, as all the artists concerned with this release (including the people behind the label) are concerned to communicate the truth about nature, through art and through science, through sound and through image, through fact and fiction. There are even some ‘recommended wind websites’ you can access via the Touch website. Maybe the wind is another thing we shouldn’t take for granted, especially as increased global despoliation looks set to disrupt normal weather patterns. [Ed Pinsent]

Blow Up (Italy):
7/10 Terzo capitolo per lo svedese Benny Jonas Nilsen aka Hazard, sull’intreccio tra natura e tecnologia. Dopo North e Wood, Wind racconta la fascinazione per il vento, il soffio, il respiro dell’aria. Ancora delicate ed ombrose tessiture ambientali, impreziosite da alcuni field recordings regalatigli da Chris Watson, le cui registrazione di ‘vento’ altamente professionali sono diventate gli elementi naturali su cui costruire le 8 tracce del disco. Difficile altrimenti narra Hazard con mezzi appena meno che professionali evitare le distorsioni causate dal vento sul microfono. Ad ogni modo il musicista e riuscito a catturare preziosi ‘momenti’ di vento tra gli alberi, l’erba, e in prossimita di un temporale. Suggestivo. [Gino Dal Soler]

All Music Guide (USA):
This is the fourth, and the most peaceful and beautiful release to date by Hazard (aka Benny Jonas Nilsen). The artist’s intent was to record an album that would blend technology with nature. He had already recorded some weather sounds in Canada, the USA and Sweden, but lacked the professional equipment necessary to capture raw wind in all its glory. He turned to Chris Watson (of the Touch label), who had just prepared a radio program about wind for the BBC. Using Watson’s unaltered recordings, his own weather tapes (thunderstorms, wind in branches, etc.), and delicate electronic floorings, he created eight pieces. Wind deserves to be listened to attentively with headphones, otherwise the music will go by unnoticed. On each track is developed an environment where the distinction between the natural and the artificial often becomes irrelevant. A faint pulse may occasionally arise, but it is not imposed as an alternative to Nature’s chaotic order. Stream unfolds cinematically through a succession of sound layers. A storm is preparing to strike in Village: the listener can feel the tension and the pressure. During Anemo, the longest track at 12 minutes, time simply stands still. The experimental electronica crowd will probably think this Hazard project lacks glitches and laptop tricks. Others will find in Wind a mind-expanding listening and meditative experience. Recommended. [Francois Coutoure]

FREQ Music (Web):
Sourced from field recordings made by Hazard and Chris Watson and reprocessed by Benny Nilsen, Wind takes the sound of that element as it moves across two continents and brings out the drama of nature in an immediate, textural manner. Where the Isolationists drew their analogue/ digital interfaces into dense wastes of often desolate structures (a broad generalisation, true), Wind concentrates on the immensity of the chaotic, the actual, definite majesty of one of the more devastating forces of nature. The rumbles and rustles are often in danger of originating at the point of recording, where the physical surface of the microphones become the resonant object in the production of the sound itself. Nilsen is careful to note his and Watson’s selection of the sources, and it is instructive to attend carefully upon the recording process as much as the results. Still, beyond the practical and technical, which are highly intriguing in themselves, the reproduced sounds take on their own force and form through speakers. How often is a full-tilt Rock effect-pedal workout compared to a wind tunnel or a hurricane? Wind takes the metaphor in new directions; not only are the sources directly relevant, but the results can be too. The air movements are as important as the environment in which they were recorded; the impact of turbulence and tunnelling down ditches, across seas and moorland through the wires stretched between pylons. The inherent danger of devastation raw nature posesses is as much to do with this record as the sounds of the sparrowhawks who make their contribution throughout; and what creatures could be more relevant? Likewise, one session was recorded by Watson in a Glasgow boarding house beside the River Clyde as the whistling through the cracked double glazing disturbed his sleep. To set the Wind disc spinning is to transform the listening environment, as well as a challenge to amplification. The CD is not merely a selection of environmental sounds, fascinating as that would be; Nilsen’s selection and arrangement draw out and extend the drama and subtleties of texture and documentary sound into something beyond Ambient. The end result is strongly involving, actively impressionistic as a powerful evocation (and identification) of the point where breathable air lifts into audible resonance, and above all the chaotic nature of feedback between environment and participant listener.

Muzik (UK):
Ash International specialises in recordings of natural and, occasionally supernatural, phenomena. If the merest glimmer of curiosity or desire for truly extraordinary sounds still exists in your enervated, pill-fucked cranium, we urge you to investigate them further. Sweden’s Hazard also features on ‘Light’ alongside Austrian laptop auteur Fennesz and Norwegian ambient pioneer Biosphere and his soundtracks for northern lights. All three are touring the UK in late May. We won’t tell you again.
4/5 [Tom Mugridge]

VITAL (Netherlands):
Last week the midwest in the USA was struck by a hurricane, so the newspaper shows us. Houses being blown over like matchboxes. I don’t think Hazard will find many clients there for his new CD, or else it must be for therapeutic reasons. Hazard’s new CD deals entirely with sound recordings of wind and weather. The recordings Hazard, aka Bennie Nilsen from Sweden, uses on this recording were made by Chris Watson. As Bennie says on the cover, and I’m sure he’s right, these recordings could well released by itself, so the nature of this work must be somewhere else. There were the geographical bump onto technology. Using sampling technology and other sorts of sound processing, Hazard produced some of the finest moments captured on CD. Of course this is ambient music, but what the fuck does it matter. Wind as such is hardly recognizable at times, and is by no means threatening me. Just elegance, elegance but austere, but dark, but shady, but but. So many buts, but why? I am simply speechless about this work! (FdW)

Other Music (USA):
Hazard, aka Benny Jonas Nilsen, releases “Wind” as his fourth solo record (and third on Ash Int’l). Nilsen was formerly in industrial group Morthound before moving to quieter pastures (sometimes actually) as Hazard. And his work retains the industrial feel, in absentia at least: it’s like an industrial record with all the “grind” removed. This work of Nilsen’s is made with — what else — recordings of wind, most of which he obtained from nature- recording superstar Chris Watson. Not only does it capture the sound of air on a microphone, but also how it sounds rushing through trees and grasses and valleys, or how fingers of wind infiltrate a building through cracks. And the record lives up to its title, sounds teeming with vitality caught via microphone, one of the most powerful things on earth not only the subject but the star. What he does with it is multifold. He seems to use reverberation as a tool of distance, bringing sounds near and pushing them away; there are also cycles, slow and faster, the textures ranging from hollow to sterile. This nearly entirely abstract opera (many sounds are not recognizable as to their natural origin) is reminiscent of Fennesz and (some have said) Zoviet France. 49 minutes. [RE]