Danish art-rock band Liserstille’s eighth album, Ilt, is a binaural recording of a live composition piece that unfolded over the course of six days with the recording taking place. As such, track names are more accurately thought of as movements or sub-headers than as denoting distinct songs. Each track moves seamlessly into the next in a way that is befitting its genesis. There seem to be audible breaks after Horizon and Tilt, which give the impression that Ilt is divided into three major sections. The overall timbre and atmosphere of each section further reinforces this sectional division.
Unlike the band’s previous albums, Ilt is completely instrumental. It also veers more fully into the ambient category than rock. For those not fluent in Danish, “ilt” is the Danish word for oxygen, which furthers the ambient nature of the album. The overall feeling of the first part of album is that it would be useful as an accompaniment for deep breathing exercises or meditation. The first three tracks (Derelict, Atom Traum, and Horizon) and most of Sentinel, are filled with layered synth pads, simulated string and woodwind melodies, and an occasional legato guitar melody that seems like it was given to the guitar for the change in timbre rather than as an idiomatic guitar melody.
That feeling changes with the segue from Sentinel into Next Bodies. With about 40 seconds remaining in Sentinel, that peaceful atmosphere is shattered by layered saxophone parts that sound like something off those John Coltrane/Pharoah Sanders collaborations. Next Bodies begins with a crossfade of the saxophones and a buzz-saw toned guitar. The mood calms again with We Have To Stop, but the presence and prominence of the electric guitar in that track and the following Tilt maintains a sense of tension that was largely absent from the earlier tracks. Tilt ends in silence following a more peaceful passage that feels like a conclusion to this section.
Mykes opens the third section of the album. The ringing clean guitar melody creates a sense of mystery with the ambient background leading into the next track. Dun features a lot of low-end sounds, simulated low brass and fuzzy low guitar sounds with a great deal of dissonance, creating a sense of unrest. That tension resolves in Ardor, which brings back much of the peaceful, meditative feeling from the opening section. This peacefulness is disrupted in the middle of Hegira by a passage involving a siren-like dissonant synthesizer and guitar part that resolves to lead into the final track, To The End Of Things. This track returns to the guitar melody from Mykes and resolves to the meditative ambience of the opening.
To be honest, this is not an album I will likely listen to often and it certainly is not the kind of thing I am likely to listen to driving down the road. That being said, it is a really nice ambient album that is great for background listening while sitting at a desk grading papers. It is not a radio album, it’s a work of art, and while there is a large degree of subjectivity in the appreciation of any work of art, it is difficult to imagine that anyone who is into dark ambient music would have difficulty appreciating this one…
01. Derelict (4:45)
02. Atom Traum (2:39)
03. Horizon (2:42)
04. Sentinel (2:56)
05. Next Bodies (0:59)
06. We Have To Stop (3:52)
07. Tilt (1:32)
08. Mykes (2:35)
09. Dun (2:36)
10. Ardor (3:42)
11. Hegira (11:39)
12. To The End Of Things (8:28)
Total Time – 48:30
Martin Byrial – Vocal, Synthesizers
Tue Schmidt Rasmussen – Guitar, Synth
Asbjørn Helboe – Bass, Wind Instruments, Synth
Jon Gotlev – Drums, Effects
Record Label: Independent
Country Of Origin: Denmark
Date Of Release: 15th March 2019