AMFJ – Bæn (CD, FALK)

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amfj baen

AMFJ is the product of noise composed with the free program Jeskola Buzz. Digital noise is kind of the black sheep of the genre – it seems to connote a lack of quality and hard work from the artist, though, as a digital noisician myself, it’s certainly not always the case. AMFJ proves just that with creative, beat-driven works on Bæn; there’s nothing too harsh about this release, but it’s an album that really clarifies what the artist does best.

Bæn begins with a looping track of a baby’s cries, often disturbed by static crackling and other noise distortions. It’s a simple premise, but it works well as an introduction to AMFJ as a whole; the project maintains its motifs with rhythmic loops of noise and strong vocals from the artist behind AMFJ, all in the Icelandic language with its rough edges and slurred sounds.

“Öldungur”, “Mammón”, and “Retoría” are a tour de force of sound. They follow the same patterns, with AMFJ taking loops and then roughening them up with various bouts of noise. They often use drum beats as a backdrop, and they work as good foundation, but what really drives Bæn are the vocals. They’re not screamed, but they’re still delivered with enough power that it carries each track, even if the loops aren’t specifically complex.

But title track “Bæn” and, moreso, “Lofun”, deviate from this pattern before the climactic finale “Húsið Andar”. The two aforementioned tracks don’t feature the powerful vocals, and instead kind of meander along a slow path before giving way to the noisy final track. It serves to break up any monotony and repetitiveness, but it also makes these the weakest on Bæn.

But AMFJ handles rhythmic noise with ease here, and there’s a complexity to these tracks that belies their digital composition. There’s nothing too harsh about the electronics on Bæn, but it’s an interesting listen all the same. AMFJ’s personality comes through on this release, and the deconstruction of his loops and his vocal delivery make this a stand-out listen.

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