Svarte Greiner – the ill-lit persona of Erik K Skodvin – has provided another suitably dark recording with Devolving Trust, the latest episode in his appropriately-named series, ‘zen music for disturbed souls’. In Devolving Trust (Miasmah Recordings), he walks listeners into the darkness, where the creaking, damp sounds slowly begin to take on an irregular, crumpled shape of their own making, and are somehow amplified with a whole new importance.
The music travels along the spine of distress, and a plague of uncertainty is always there, emanating from the caverns of its notes, stressing against the cello’s uniform tones and elongated lines, and providing a lick of tension which echoes down from the strings, but Devolving Trust is also a reflective listen. Increasing its dank atmosphere is the fact that this is a live recording, coming from the once-bombed bunkers of Schneider Brewery, Berlin.
Its dark, heavy history continues to echo into the present. Erik describes the old cellars as being ‘wet and hollow with a dark past and long reverb’, and its cello and minimal electro-acoustic improvisations are left to rot in the dark, reaching out with long tendrils and looking to invade its shadows. The cello is a perfect fit for the oppressive gloom of the cellar; it’s heavily influenced by its physical location.
The cello almost seems to want to dig itself into the ground, living underneath the earth instead of succumbing to the pain of living on its surface at street level. The trauma of falling bombs and its era of wartime darkness has left behind more of an imprint, and more of a residue, on the atmosphere of the place, damaging it more than the physical destruction of its bricks and barrels; it’s a part of the building’s reverb. A cough or a small slip makes the record even more personal and unique to that one moment in time, as well as giving it its own special allure.
Sometimes, the atmosphere and the electricity of a live recording can’t be transferred – it has to be experienced there and then, and things can get lost in translation. However, there is enough atmospheric depth here to recreate the live experience. It washes over you; it goes through you.
“there are so many factors that are lost in the translation from being present and listening to it in another space. The eyes, ears and body can often see beyond small mistakes once a live performance unfolds in front of you. The details are usually lost in translating it to a pure recording. I made an exception for this as I feel it translates the live feeling in a way I like. Very personal and full of small mistakes…it creates its own life”.
The second piece, ‘Devolve’, was created out of fragments taken from the live performance and further extends its reach into the dark, but it also reverses in on itself. The piece offers a strange kind of sedation, a calmness in the emptiness, as if it has given up the fight, like prey finally surrendering to venomous fangs. The calmer mood is made possible because of its emptiness. It’s an escape from it all. Perhaps that’s why the cello has gone to such literal depths – in order to flee the true horrors of the world, of which it is already too familiar with. Its dark, sightless drones feel their way further and further into the inner sanctums of the cellar, and they’re never coming back.