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CD Feature/ Jana Winderen: "Heated"

img  Tobias

Every major movie's got to have it: That big, cinematic opening shot which makes you feel as though you're about to witness something incredibly impressive and intense for the next two hours. Maybe Jana Winderen should seriously consider a career in directing, for the opening section of her debut album has everything a Hollywood blockbuster would kill for: An eery, twisted harmonic sheet fades in from the dark and opens up the view to a vast, windswept plane filled with faint patterns of discreet scraping, the crystaline movement of pearly bubbles rising to the surface of a flourescent volcanic sea and haunting traces of bizarre organ tones at the outer edge of the horizon. It is almost as if she were flipping a switch: The light dies down, you close your eyes and then the projector starts to roll, colouring the canvas with wordless scenes from frosty excursions to Greenland, Iceland and her native Norway.

The sheer detailedness and intricacy of her vision points to a tedious compositional process, but in fact, „Heated“ was recorded live on the occasion of the last of two Japanese gigs late last year. If only more releases from the experimental scene were dedicated to the felicitous effect of spontaneity as much as this one: The material is audibly fresh and of a momentuously contemporary quality. Comprising Testsuo Yasumaga's brief, one-minute introduction to the concert and the ensuing one-track composition by Winderen, the album is also a concise affair, clocking in at well under half an hour – leaving listeners panting for more instead of overstuffing their bellies. Combined with the minimalism of her pallette, made up of dark, earthcoloured drones and high-resolution, close-captioned field recordings, it makes for a work which presents Winderen as an artist with a penchant for precision, purity and raw power.

The main reason for the alluring appeal of „Heated“ lies in its architectural trilogy of compositional dramaturgy, documentational aspects and sound art. Foremost, Winderen is a phonographer, collecting environmental recordings as fragments of music played by the planet itself. Cutting tiny circles into thick crusts of ice to dip her Dolphin hydrophonics into the cool water, holding her microphones into the storm to catch its soul or taping herself treading narrow pathways of tiny cobblestones, her initial impulse is always to portray the private aspects of her environment and to hold her ear to the ground to listen to what it has to say.

It is only in the studio or on stage that these field recordings are either discreetly transformed or embedded into ominous textures to create non-linear, fluent tension archs. Even at this stage, however, she never tries to step into the limelight too overtly, prefering to take on catalytic functions instead and supporting sounds to carve out their own canale. One could compare her approach to a painter who sees the core of her oeuvre in getting the colours right and to use the canvas as a space to best bring out their inherent qualities rather than trying to impose her egoistic will on them.

If „Heated“ sounds trickingly tangible, then this is because Winderen makes full use of the stereo image, creating a vivid aural panorama which seems to close in on its audience from all sides. The result is a succession of panoramic scenes, which are marked by silent sounds turned up to reveal their secrets on the one hand and very loud and physically threatening noises on the other, creating the impression of wideness and distance. And yet, despite its grand, cinematic opening shot and multiangle production, the album cares little for the kind of hollow special effects Hollywood uses to hide its narrative deficits.

Quite on the contrary: The longer one immerses oneself in Winderen's world, the more agreable it becomes. Which may explain for its title as well: By collecting souvenirs from the most barren and frosty places, she has domesticated these sonic artifacts, allowing them to radiate their inner warmth as they gradually thaw in your ears.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Jana Winderen
Homepage: Touch

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