Dark and moody, sad and beautiful, organic and ghostly, the latest album by Marcus Fjellström, Schattenspieler, is an incredible achievement, that grows on you with every listen. This morning, when I was hoping to be a little upbeat, the rainy weather changed my mood, and I gravitated towards yet another listen of the album, which translates from German as the “Shadowplayer”… Weaving an environment full of scratchy and dusty elements, orchestral arrangements reminiscent of Biosphere‘s Shenzhou, and sad cinematic passages of forgotten films, Fjellström creates a tense atmosphere for the psychological thriller inside your head. And the references to film-making are not an accident here. At least four tracks on the album were originally commissioned for the film House Without A Door by Bernd Behr.
Marcus Fjellström is a Swedish composer and a multimedia artist, appearing on one of our favorite labels, Miasmah, for the first time. His two previous releases, Exercises In Estrangement (2005) and Gebrauchsmusik (2006), were both released by the Manchester based Lampse, which may already be known to the listeners through its Machinefabriek releases. Being a Miasmah release, the album gets treated with cover illustration by Erik Skodvin (Svarte Greiner) and is mastered by Andreas Tilliander (Mokira). Fjellström has also worked with the Swedish Royal Ballet, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, as well as various ensembles and soloists.
“Haunting synth and orchestral instrument-based audio constructions, flowing from one moment to the next – the fleeting ghosts of Fjellström’s melodies rise, only to be buried under a claustrophobic clutter of percussion and creaking background noise. These pieces do indeed feel like you’re listening to something more implied than obviously stated, as if Fjellström wants only to expose us to the shadow of the music – the implication being perhaps a more terrifying experience than to be confronted outright… listen to ‘Schattenspieler’ and you may find your mind starts to play tricks on you…”
Listening to Schattenspieler, you are placed in a haunted house, where the gray clouds slowly gather over the roof. Finally, after a few intense and electrifying moments, the music begins to drip, and then pour on top of your body, slowly saturating first the stale clothing, then the aching bones. Somewhere in the background a needle is left on a record, skipping on the very last groove. And as you approach a corner, the flickering light of a candle is stretching the shadows beyond their physical size, leaping between the wooden boards and yellow stained ceilings… Something just ran around the corner! Was that a giant cockroach or a starving cat? Do you dare to enter Fjellström’s world, descend into the basement and find out?
I keep returning to the album, and the repeating melodies begin to unravel themselves, implanting into my mind with every recognizable stab or progression. Perfectly fitting on Miasmah, Schattenspieler is a great addition to the catalog of our favorite releases on the label from Kreng, Jacaszek, Rafael Anton Irisarri, Elegi, and Jasper TX. Highly recommended!