Swamps up Nostrils EP


Arnfinn Killingtveit from Trondheim, Norway, is the name behind the enigmatic (or just plain silly) Swamps up Nostrils. And I like it!

The first few tracks of the new net release, Thirty Thirteen, on Fabulat take the same basic approach. A fairly ordinary drum machine, accompanied by abstract growly synths and gnarly sound-sources. I say it's an ordinary drum-machine because it is, but I don't mean it as a criticism, its simple, recognisable (606 or some such...but probably a plugin.. fruityloops maybe?) and provides a friendly point of departure for the gooey dollops of noise, computerish bleeps, voice samples, bassy rumbles and whining screechy things that Killingtveit spreads all over it with a large and sticky ladle. The whole thing is quite nicely recorded, which is partly why I think it's done in a packaged sequencer like Fruityloops or Reason, but sometimes this has resulted in somewhat unsubtle choices of sounds. Of course Killingtveit likes his knobs to go to eleven, who doesn't, but does every bass sound have to be flanged / phased or PW-modulated? Does every sound have to be in the front of the mix? Do the rhythms have to be quirky and stuttering all the time? It's as if he is scared that one single second will be un-interesting or boring, when the real key to electronic music is restraint, repetition, suspense, and suss. When you have the possibility to do anything, you mustn't. This could have been Scorn or Aphex Twin, and some of it reminds me of a slightly obscure (and underrated) Australian 80's combo called Severed Heads, but I'm afraid it isn't… nearly… but not quite.

BUT.. All is not lost.. In the last 4 tracks, Mr Killingveit unlocks his noise box and takes out the drone hat. And It fits... Perfectly!

On Futurbulence or Asteroid mine (reminds me of the great Speccy game “Elite”), Swamps up Nostrils (seriously Arnfinn, is that your project name? OK then… fine, just as long as you're sure!)… Swamps up Nostrils gets weird and really quite wonderful.

These tracks are noise/soundscape pieces (without the drum-machine) and thankfully are coming from the camp who have stopped thinking that noise is a pretty neat idea, and just use it as an instrument. There is no show off, “how loud can I be?” here, no flat-line distortion on the whole mix, no short cuts to Merz-world. He is aware of the sources, the people that came before, has tired of it, and is taking the next step. The recordings are tasteful, full, and warm. Oh, sure, sometimes the sounds could still be subtler, the “tri-wave” stuff on Futurbulence for example could use some mixing, reverb, or masking generally, otherwise it can sound like a kid playing with wibbly wobbly noises on a borrowed synth. But Asteroid Mine is a beaut… a Sci Fi travel-logue through the Solar System. The kitchy English organ sound, the radio snippets, the electronic dials and switches flashing and bleeping, this is the 50's sound of space, the sound of clean air-tight kitchenettes and labour saving devices in the new freedom of the Space Stations and Bases on Mars. And on Non Linear observation of cassini's descent, this is, quite simply, the pre-millennium sound of hope.

Currently in Norway (where Swamps up Nostrils originate and I also live) it is possible to win a trip on the Space Shuttle (by purchasing chocolate, answering some questions, composing a silly rhyme no-doubt) If I win, I'll want Arfinn on board the shuttle, for the in-flight music and sound effects.

If space wasn't silent, it should sound like this.

Review by Mark Francombe