Having released the first three 7″ singles in the Sound X Sound series over the space of just over a year, Niels Lyhne Løkkegaard has progressed to delivering the last four discs in the set at the same time, nearly two full years after the first appeared. Following the well-established format of the initial run, the final singles consist of Music For 15 Shakers, 18 Clarinets, 16 Triangles and 10 Hi-hats, and together complete Sound X Sound with some of the strongest pieces of them all. As a bonus, the entire colour-coded collection is now also available in a handmade boxed set.As might be anticipated, the sound of fifteen shakers is rattly and persistent, creating a wall-to-wall sussurus in “Fine Grain” on Side A, the dynamics minimal, movement slow and the ear-filling quotient high; it’s an interesting experience, on which throbs and judders on to Side B to extract the maximum amount of texture that shakers can deliver. Likewise, setting so many (one more) triangles going at once is going to resemble nothing so much as several fire alarms being set off over time, so not only could this single make a good layered wake-up tone, but dropping it into a DJ set could get the venue into a whole heap of trouble in short order.
As the apparently relentless trilling on the A side reaches a crescendo before fading, the dense sound soon becomes almost calming, having persuasively insinuated itself into the fabric of time if not necessarily space. Almost remarkably, the obverse face draws out the quieter properties of the instrument, played muted to rattle like nothing so much as peas in a pod (or perhaps, shakers), allowing the sixteen performers to fully explore the (somewhat limited) possibilities it has to offer.There’s a similar amount of repetition to be had with the clarinets, and eighteen of them give György Ligeti a run in the intense warbling stakes, propelling the brain-melting properties of this many reedy voices like so many alien overtones trilling from the dark sides of Jupiter’s moons in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Somehow this manages to be one of the most engaging pieces of the whole Sound X Sound series, the piercing waves of harmonics drilling straight for the cerebral cortex and putting normality on hold for the duration. The contrast with the B side bass clarinets’ resonant rumble couldn’t be starker, standing waves of drones setting the fixtures and for that matter furnishings a-rumbling with all the mighty atonal overtones of a church organ in full flow — or indeed a spaceship burning its engines for one more push further out into Stanley Kubrick‘s version of the solar system in all its sublime hallucinatory magnificence. And lastly, and decidedly not leastly, the ten hi-hats are given a mighty workout. The opening “Outside” is possessed initially of an isolationist bowed drone worthy of Thomas Köner‘s arctic explorations of the instrument. At first ominous,then once again close to hitting those brown notes that window frames find so sympathetically resonant, the track reverberates pleasantly before building into a vast cacophony of shimmering percussive rolls and rapid-fire chittering. So it only remains for the “The Inside” to work up to a frenetic finale, the hi-hats’ centre discs fluttering and frittering their collective farewell in a resplendent rise, surge and fall of drumsticks on brass, and the resulting silence after the sudden terminal fade seems to hold almost imperceptible echoes of their apparently untouchable motion.
Taken together, the seven discs of Sound X Sound make for a pleasingly single-minded and well-considered achievement, and one well worth (re)visiting from the top.