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EXERCISES IN ESTRANGEMENT (2005)

Exercises in Estrangement (LAMP002) was my first full length album, released in 2005 by Monika Herodotou on her label, Lampse Audiovisual Recordings, part of the Type Records family. The album consists of nine pieces composed and produced 1998-2001, during my early years as a student of composition, and can be considered to be the major introduction of my music to an international audience.

Having grown up with Warp Records artists such as Aphex Twin and Autechre as personal demi-gods, needless to say I was thrilled beyond my wits when the Warp Records website dubbed my album "Top Album Recommendation of the Week" upon its release!


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NOTE: Customers who have ordered this item from the now discontinued lampse.com site have reportedly not received any product for their money transfer -- it is therefore strongly adviced to order from boomkat.com instead.


LISTEN:

1st excerpt from track 6, "Oil". [ DOWNLOAD MP3 ]


2nd excerpt from track 6, "Oil". [ DOWNLOAD MP3 ]


Excerpt from track 1, "Planchette". [ DOWNLOAD MP3 ]


1st excerpt from track 3, "Marionettes Revised". [ DOWNLOAD MP3 ]


2nd excerpt from track 3, "Marionettes Revised". [ DOWNLOAD MP3 ]



REVIEWS


WARP RECORDS / WARPMART

* TOP ALBUM RECOMMENDATION OF THE WEEK (JULY 2005) *

Outstanding new album from the Lampse label. Marcus Fjellstrom is a classically trained composer from Sweden with an interest in synthesis and electronic music, his compositions have been performed all around the world by critically acclaimed orchestras and ensembles. This release reflects his love of electro-acoustic music and composers such as Cage, Reich and Berio with a mixture of traditional instrumentation and subtle electronic processes.

There is a strong narrative quality throughout that is communicated through changing timbres and textures that never become boringly comfortable or unbearably extreme. This is an engaging and enjoyable listen, one of the most exciting releases we've heard in a long time!



THE WIRE (#258, August 2005, by Chris Sharp)

This stark, etiolated and delibarately capricious music ghosts along the shadowy divide between electronica and modernist contemporary classical. Its Swedish creator is currently completing his postgraduate diploma in composition, and this CD - his first release - gathers together a number of brief pieces to form a survey of his work to date.

The influence of Cage is apparent in the opening "Plancette", an electronically slurred, woozily pointillistic slice of alien gamelan whose sudden, metallic surge six minutes in is as arresting as it is unexpected. Elsewhere, Fjellström offers the ultra-processed, dense and dynamically complex "Jeux", the eerily shivering strings of "Lev Poem", the febrile, almost cinematic melancholy of "Oil", and the slight, winsome tinkering of "Music for DX7" showcasing in the process a variety of approaches without ever quite laying claim to a signature style. Nonetheless, this is sonorous and haunting music whose deep, dark crevices yield plenty of textural surprises.



TEXTURA

Certainly Fjellström's Exercises in Estrangement is aptly named, given that 'exercises' connotes a 'classical' dimension while 'estrangement' suggests 'alienation.' Currently completing a Postgraduate Diploma in Composition, Fjellström allows a bevy of classical influences to seep into the album's nine pieces, composers like Ligeti, Messiaen, Reich, Stravinksy, and Berio, resulting in always challenging though not necessarily pleasant music. Fjellström's predominantly orchestral settings are in a modern classical, even avant-garde, post-classical style. It's an at times harrowing, disturbing, and loud listen, though the composer wisely gives the listener a chance to recover from the dark intensity with quieter pieces that appear midway through (“Anstice” and “Oil,” despite the unsettling current of dissonant flute tonalities that flows throughout the latter). Though the album purports to fuse contemporary classical composition with electronic music, the emphasis is firmly on the former; while there is an electronic side to the album (overt on the minimal keyboard interlude “Music For Dx7”), it's largely woven subtly into the orchestral textures.

Fjellström opens Exercises in Estrangement auspiciously with an inventive manipulation of minimal material in “Planchette.” Though its pulsating patterns can't help but recall Steve Reich, Fjellström almost immediately distances himself from the American master by blurring the sound and subtly modulating the volume of the patterns, having them resemble advancing and receding waves, and by inserting dissonant, wavering drones behind the pulses. And, just when you're sure it'll carry on in this manner until the end, the sound quietens to a pause before jarringly re-entering with a steely roar. The pieces that follow inhabit denser territory: “Jeux” presents an unusual combination of drum textures, atonal classical motifs, phantom voices, and howling dissonance, while quiet martial snare rhythms collide with explosive orchestral ruptures in “Marionettes Revised” and extended tonal clusters recall Ligeti in “Campane Morti e Acqua Crescente” and “Lev Poem.” True to its name, the playfully abstract “Kandinsky Kammer” merges dancing clarinet melodies with the fiery crackle of castanets and granite blocks of sound.

As mentioned, the album title indicates that Fjellström and Lampse are aware of the album's daunting content yet both deserve credit for remaining true to the music's uncompromising nature; such commitment bodes well for future releases.

June 2005



TINY MIX TAPES (rating: 4/5)

Marcus Fjellström’s Exercises in Estrangement is an unsettling, visionary work of modern composition that falls soundly within the idiom of contemporary electronic music yet evokes the darker aspects of the work of many of the more brooding mid- to late-twentieth century European classical composers. The album consists of nine tracks that, considered as a whole, convey a sense of tension that extends beyond any of the bleakest dark ambient recordings, or even the more terrifying works of Ligeti and Pettersson. The pieces contained within Exercises in Estrangement run the gamut from electronic minimalism to dense orchestral bombast, and are often jarring in their execution. Fjellström’s use of silence and space — the quieter, ambient moments between the more cacophonous ones — make for a recording of ominous, edgy pieces.

Exercises in Estrangement begins with "Planchette," which is undoubtedly the most bold and intriguing work on the album. The piece is somewhat reminiscent of Ligeti’s groundbreaking and experimental organ work Volumina on a number of different counts. Volumina is a piece whose notes (every key on the organ, in fact) are sustained throughout its entire fifteen-minute length. What makes this piece so unique, however, is the way in which these static notes are manipulated in order to demonstrate the instrument’s full range of sonic capabilities. The work is not about melody; in fact, most casual listeners would consider it to be somewhat if not entirely unlistenable. Rather, Volumina was composed to explore the complete spectrum of sound that can be expressed by simple, unchanging notes without any reference to melody whatsoever. "Planchette," similarly, consists primarily of a single, stabbing piano chord that is repeated throughout the track’s length. The variation in this piece simply involves the degrees by which this chord is incrementally transformed, or mutated, if you will, as the track progresses. Tone, pitch, volume, phase, and other general musical properties of the notes are gradually modulated, compressed, and otherwise manipulated, until the chords are almost unrecognizable as having been produced by a piano. Repetition in this piece, to a lesser extent, also recalls some of the minimalist compositions of Steve Reich. "Planchette" begins benignly enough, though it ends on a more palpably menacing note. Nonetheless, it is a mesmerizing piece whose fascination lies in how it demonstrates the astonishing range of the instrument.

Most of the other eight tracks on Exercises in Estrangement are quite atmospheric, though frequently punctuated by chaotic interludes. The pieces are also considerably cinematic, like the soundtrack to a dream (or possibly a nightmare). Seemingly random, electronically-created mechanical sounds, incidental noise and carnival-esque orchestration, coupled with melancholic, somber melodies, give the music an incredibly visual quality. Images of bleak, industrial landscapes, nineteenth-century urban European environments and dusty attics filled with antique toys are easily conjured when the listener is immersed in Fjellström’s compositions. The tangible presence of electronic programming on Exercises in Estrangement makes it a distinctly postmodern work, while the beautiful, somewhat simplistic classical motifs, in contrast to the record’s more synthetic elements, envelop the music in a gorgeously anachronistic, ghostly dissonance like a diaphanous shroud.



EXCLAIM! CANADA'S MUSIC AUTHORITY

By Tom Sekowski (sept. 2005)

Swedish composer Marcus Fjellstrom's debut release yields plenty of surprises. One thing that is not surprising is its sombre mood; the Swedes are well known for their love of the darker side of things — perhaps it's their proximity to the Arctic Circle. Right from the get-go, comparisons to John Cage may be prevalent, especially on the drone-like "Planchette." Over the following 40-plus minutes, Marcus delights the listener with some of the richest variations of composed music. Everything is presented — from noisy collages and percussion-heavy experiments to ominous musique concrete elements and ambient-like pieces. There’s a painfully slow scraping of a cello here, the alien sound of percussion over there and the sound of tortured harp in other places — nothing is foreign to this guy. What grabs me the most on this record is though the pieces vary so damn much, musically speaking, they're still all quite accessible. Exercises in Estrangement turns out to be a welcome surprise from the land that gave us safe cars and cheap furniture. (Lampse)



BOOMKAT.COM

Second release on the Lampse label, following on from the excellent debut provided by Lee Norris' nacht Plank. Marcus Fjellstrom's relationship with music started, unsurprisingly, early on in his life. With piano lessons since the age of nine, he was soon fascinated by the magic abilities of synths and samplers and experimented, as a teenager, with electronic music. This passion later grew to include orchestral and modern classical music and led to a degree in Composition. A big art-house cinema fan himself, Marcus had the opportunity over the next couple of years to provide the score for several independent productions in his homeland Sweden. Many of his compositions have been performed by known chamber ensembles, soloists and orchestras to audiences in Sweden as well as Australia, USA, Norway, Finland and the UK.

For this debut release Fjellström has given us is a collection of very dark and melancholic pieces with a strange beauty. Long, haunting ambient tracks are reminiscent of dark Lynchian worlds. Frantic orchestral moments could be the soundtrack to a Svankmajer mechanical puppet show or even a surreal circus performance. An obvious comparison is the works of avant-garde composers such as John Cage, Steve Reich and Luciano Berio. A stronger reference point though would be the early experimentations of leading electronic music composer and Cage's close friend Morton Subotnick, as well as the output of modern electronica mavericks Aphex Twin and Autechre. Marcus, like them, acknowledges the advantages of the electronic medium and doesn't hesitate to place it at the centre of his work.

'Exercises In Estrangement' is a strong example of the possible directions in modern (classical) music. Already paved by names such as Ligeti, Supersilent and Arvo Pärt, to name but a few, the path is long. With albums like this, the future is exciting.



GAFFA.DK (rating: 5/6 -- review in Danish)

Foruroligende godt ny-klassisk album med strejf af elektronik og avantgarde

Med en titel som Exercises in Estrangement er der vel ikke noget at sige til, at tonerne på den blot 26-årige Marcus Fjellströms nye album ikke umiddelbart er imødekommende. Den svenske komponists udlægning af ny-klassisk musik med elektroniske strejf og avantgarde-tendenser er præget af en mørk vision og ofte direkte foruroligende at lytte til. Kompositionerne svinger fra det beherskede og lavmælte til det kraftfulde og overvældende, hvilket gør det umådeligt svært ikke at blive revet med af de ferme musikalske forløb, der pladen igennem klinger med en utrolig integritet. Lydbillederne er ofte simple og rummelige, men spændingen lurer altid blandt de dystre klange. Det gør albummet nærværende og fæstner dets ni numre i bevidstheden således, at man bemærker selv de mindste detaljer. Exercises in Estrangement spiller som et imaginært soundtrack til en gyserfilm, men behøver ingen visuelle hjælpemidler for at efterlade spor i hukommelsen. Det er et originalt, atypiskt og helt igennem fremragende værk.



AUTRES DIRECTIONS (review in French)

La deuxième sortie de Lampse, Exercises in Estrangement, du suédois Marcus Fjellström, est un disque hautement déstabilisant. La musique impressionnante de cet étudiant en composition mélange une électronique abstraite, designée, sombre, et des mouvements orchestraux contemporains. Bref ça part dans tous les sens.

Exercises in Estrangement est véritablement une claque qui retourne. Aussi difficile que le Mandarin Movie par exemple, les repères ont disparus et les ambiances développées évoluent entre le film noir et le film d’horreur. Violent et terrible, la musique de Marcus Fjellström, pour le moment, me fait surtout peur.



KINDAMUZIK (review in Dutch)

Hans van der Linden, 28 juli 2005

De Zweed Marcus Fjellström werkt in het dagelijks leven aan composities voor orkesten, kamermuziek en film maar nu heeft hij zijn muzikale ideeën eveneens onder zijn eigen naam gebundeld. Exercises in Estrangement heet het kleinood en die titel dekt de lading zo goed als volledig. Fjellström heeft namelijk negen instrumentale stukjes gemaakt die vervreemdend overkomen.

In feite is Exercises In Estragement één van de vele mogelijke hedendaagse adaptaties van een aantal klassieke beginselen. Daarmee treedt Fjellström in de voetsporen van boegbeelden zoals John Cage en Steve Reich. Dat minimalisme en repetitie niet ver weg zijn bewijst de Zweed al meteen met ‘Planchette’ waar hij volop met monotome klanken experimenteert die gradueel maar uiterst langzaam aanzwellen om binnen het uitgezette ritme tot een explosie te komen. Nadien verkent hij vele uithoeken. ‘Marionettes Revised’ is op samples van tromgeroffel gebaseerd en ook melodieuze soundtracks worden niet gemeden. Zo weerklinkt op de achtergrond van ‘Kandinsky’s Kammer’ een ijle flard die de herinnering aan Morricone levendig houdt.

Rijk en compact is het alleszins maar het probleem dat zich soms voordoet is dat de oefeningen net door de vervreemding en de hoge mate van abstractie waarmee dit gepaard gaat, wat afstandelijk worden en zo toch een beetje de begeesterende geladenheid missen die Lynch-componist Angelo Badalamenti wel weet op te roepen. Maar misschien was dat helemaal de bedoeling van Fjellström niet en in dat geval heeft hij met Exercises In Estrangement zijn werktitel helemaal waargemaakt.




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