Following her instantly sold out (and now worth a literal bomb) LP Gro Mig En Blmost, Gothenburg artist Astrid Oster Mortensen’s follow up is a looser yet microscopically detailed study of space, with sounds finding their own place within kissing distance of each other, remaining open and determined in their own path.
On the Gothenburg label Discreet Music, part of a network of labels and artists that have cemented Gothenburg as the epicentre of weirdoid, outsider creativity in the last couple of years, Skaersgardslyd uses music and non music to highly evocative effect, with the sounds breathing out and gently lapping the sides of wherever they were recorded. These can be incidental sounds, documents of the room or reverberating church, with clicks and clacks echoing and stumbling around or they can be minimal compositions for different acoustic instruments that Mortensen plays with a conviction and confidence on the border of reverant, meditative music and playful re-casting of Nordic folk melodies. On Styrso Kyrkorgel (I ain’t no native Swede but surely “kryk” is a church) what sounds like a monolithic church organ duets with what sounds like members of the congregation getting restless in their pews, the effect is similar to Aine O’Dwyer’s Music For Church Organs set that so bewitched us a few years ago.
Mortensen’s use of strings, we’re assuming violin or similar, varies from plain, plucked motifs and bowed cascades of sound that dance around the repetitive riffs. A sort of chilled glow permeates Skaersgardslyd, it’s a incandescent blue light almost, a nocturnal emanence that never allows you to totally sit still even at its most beautiful, as on Born, which flirts with arpeggiated chordal blocks and big delayed keyboard parts that wash in from the top, the effect feels both improvisatory, playful even, and laden with some emotional discomfort. The satisfying hiss and warble of tape is almost an instrument in of itself and on Hvem Er Det Som Stjaeler Min Ungdom it ushers in what we assume is Mortensen’s vocal, a frankly stunningly, half-whispered fragile performance that starts echoing itself, creating a ping ponging effect last seen on those classic Grouper records. Mortensen uses voice sparingly, with the folk-inflected guitar work on Smelter Vaek treated to a bassline of humming before its swallowed with the same line pitched down to haunted effect.
Astrid Oster Mortensen’s music is subtle and lower case, confident in taking its time and taking up the space it opens up in front of itself. Skaersgardslyd is full of still moments where the music engenders a meditative state, pure awareness taking in the intricate details, whether they be gothic—tinged vocal performances, fuzzy pianos sounding like it’s on a 6th generation cassette slowly decaying into the netherworld before dream and reality or haphazardly brilliant guitar compositions. What’s for sure is that Mortensen is a genuine wonder that is difficult to completely pigeonhole. She can be starkly, straight-forwardly beautiful as on the funeral-marching Det Endnu Usagte or playfully poignant as on the closing track which feels like we’re eavesdropping on a private moment the artist is having, riffing and playing a keyboard that sounds like it’s singing out its refrains from within a cave, behind a waterfall.
This is a really beautiful record.
Skærsgårdslyd – Astrid Øster Mortensen has been added to your bag.