Calder: Lower (Make Mine Music, 2008)
When the words “Iceland” and “post-rock” and “ambient” are put together in the same phrase, the names Olafur Josephsson (Stafrænn Hákon) and Lárus Sigurðsson do not usually spring to mind. However, together as Calder, this group is poised to woo listeners around the world with their gentle brand of acoustic and classical-tinged electronic ambient music, as displayed on their new full-length release Lower. The 10 track sophomore full-length from this band, three years in the making, portrays a group that patiently crafts delicate and gentle layers of melodies. The music is soothing, and sparkles with sophistication while employing the use of piano, guitars, drones, keyboards, subtle electronics, and other sounds. In fact, it almost is inaccurate to call the intelligent structures and thought-provoking melodies of Calder’s compositions mere “instrumental ambient” music. The attention to detail that the group uses in their spacious music sets it apart from any run of the mill ambient group, and the definite structure to the music elevates it from the category of mere mood music to something that is more refined.
That being said, much of the music on Lower conveys a similar mood of relaxed intelligence, supported by light electronic beats and varied instrumentation. Due to their similar sound, the songs on Lower seem to blend together, but given the intertwining melodies and generous use of sounds, this blending is not a bad thing. Rather than picking out individual tracks as favourites, the listener instead sits with the entire album, and is taken on often whimsical journeys through Calder’s music. Lower ends on the gorgeous high note of “Rowd”, possibly the highlight of the whole disc. “Rowd” features a heartbreaking melody over a hint of almost abrasive noise and busy electronic percussion. The end result, as the song builds to perhaps the biggest dynamic change on the whole CD, is a beautifully complex unification of noise and melody.
Overall, Lower is a sparkling release of music that is sure to please listeners looking for something that doesn’t fit in to the general ambient scene, but that informs ambient music with a sense of adventure and thoughtfulness. Calder marries ambient, classical and acoustic music with depth and maturity. As such, Lower showcases a band with precision leading listeners into a journey of how refined music can be.
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