For many musicians, there are like-minded souls that feel a connection with each other despite living thousands of miles away. It can be a frustrating situation, for sure. Two countries that have aural connections are New Zealand and Finland. Two unlikely suspects on the world stage, their underground music scenes are both thriving and overflowing with talented visionaries. From a geographic standpoint, it seems unlikely that these countries would have so many similarities. But geography is only half the battle. When I think of a shortlist of some of my favorite experimental artists, a bulk of them hail from each of these countries.
Antony Milton and Jani Hirvonen are two of the best to hail from New Zealand and Finland, respectively. Most people know Antony Milton for his solo project, A.M. and his label Pseudoarcana. Jani is widely respected for his work as Uton, and also for his label, Haamumaa. A.M. and Uton releases often delve into similar territory. They take insular, glacial drones and turn and twist them into something enveloping and warm. It's a near-impossible task to mold such inhospitable aural landscapes into something inviting. Yet, time and time again, A.M. and Uton releases do just that, even if they're doing it half a world away. Now, collaborations-via-post are not new in the world of experimental music, but more of them have been popping up recently. Because of their similarities, it is natural that Milton and Hirvonen decided to travel down this road and work together on a giant, dense slab of melting drone soundscapes. "NTHnth STHsth" is the result.
People used to say that John Coltrane produced sheets of sound. This is a phrase that applies to much of today's quality drone. More appropriate for A.M./Uton, however, is a blanket. In its steely approach, it ends up being very warm. It wraps its mythical arms around you and holds you close and tight. This is especially audible and obvious on the beautiful "Slow Call Across the Channel." Underneath the moaning electric guitars lies the churning sound of a radio wave. It's a welcome call from a distant land, reminding you that you're not alone.
This is music for those who find comfort in overcast skies. You don't need to see the stars to feel their glow, and you feel an intrinsic beauty in the thousands of grey shades overhead. "Drifts" is the embodiment of those emotions and visual images. Metallic clatter accompanies Milton's violin strokes, and piercing feedback tries to escape its iron cage. In a seemingly simple piece, there's a lot happening here. This is a perfect end to an excellent album.
Harsher moments also grace the surface of "NTHnth STHsth." "Rum Dance Under Saturn," for example, utilizes machinistic percussion to great effect. These wails and scrapes are like a fierce wind tearing a metal roof off an old barn. There's such intensity here that it's only a matter of time before the whole thing comes down.
But once again, you are protected by the thick droning sounds. You are encased in it's warmth, protected from the fight that rages outside. Once this album is locked in your brain, it will begin to seep out the cracks in your skull. It will hypnotize you. Close your eyes, and let it happen. Tear down your own walls and live inside "NTHnth STHsth"s pulsating glow. 8/10 -- Brad Rose (25 May, 2005)