Jøn Liefhold-Argusterfelder A-C: Album Review

Argusterfelder A-C cover art

On Argusterfelder A-C, soundscape artist Jøn Liefhold leaves the listener blissfully satisfied throughout while simultaneously amassing small pockets of tension that culminate into climactic peaks before jumping on to the next peaceful prairie of pleasant drone.  The delicate texture that surrounds each clean keyboard line changes the white tone color ever so slightly as tiny instances of nuance hypnotize the listener, allowing for huge swaths of time to fall by the wayside.  Perhaps the album dwells on certain ideas for a bit too long.  Sometimes thematic points repeat themselves for periods of five or six minutes, which certainly categorizes the piece as one that requires a large commitment in terms of focus.  However, the playful melodies pluck along different emotional strings just enough to continuously enthrall the listener with each gradual change of pace.

Each piece seems to have a certain moment where the bottom falls out; the bass line drops register a great deal leaving a lot of open space to play around with in the higher pitched sounds.  At around the four-minute mark in part A, the pulsating melodic idea from the beginning of the piece suddenly dissipates and a much cooler, low-pitched drone takes over as the main focus, with distortion highlighting the new-found bassy centerpiece.  By making this change happen so quickly, the piece is divided into two sections with starkly different moods.  The first breath of air in the beginning reads as infectiously optimistic, but this is put into question by the barren mystery evoked by the moodier sound in the second half.  In part B, something similar happens, but much faster, less than three minutes into the piece.  A bit more subdued than the change in the first track, here we find the already basic looping melody sucked into a scarce, ridged place, again suggesting a shift from kindhearted optimism to an air of uncertainty.  Although these instances of sudden change do not signify the only source of development, they help to break up the album further and specify memorable moments within the overall expanse of the piece.

That being said, Leifhold also presents a mastery of longstanding development particularly in the extremely expansive final track.  It would be somewhat fair to point out the roughly 90 second mark as well as the four-minute mark as areas of sudden change as discussed in the first two tracks, but the areas that surround them fit into each other much more cohesively and these instances hold less of a command over the way the track operates.  The soup of bright moods presented throughout the piece thrives on the swelling ups and downs of the different sounds involved.  By taking up much more space, Leifhold is able to give the music time to breath.  Change is a constant factor yet there is a comforting sense of stagnation.

An album like this cannot really be discussed without some consideration of accessibility.  At the end of the day, Leifhold is completely pushing himself away from the average listener, which isn’t an automatically honorable decision.  As far as this idiom goes, the piece does well to find a voice, but it does not completely carve a groundbreaking musical niche.  Aesthetically, many of these sounds have been used time and time again particularly by other artists on the Midnight Circles label (I’m reminded of the drone sounds of say Chemiefaserwerk).  Although the songs are well constructed, the cool, somewhat uninviting atmosphere detracts a bit from the memorability and emotional impact. Perhaps a bit more focus on melody would do well to improve the next piece.

-Donovan Burtan

Solid work but Leifhold could do a bit more melodically.



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