Loke Rahbek & Frederik Valentin - Elephant

  • The key Posh Isolation artists take a path less travelled in search of beauty.
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  • I wrote this piece in a local library, where every Tuesday at 10:30 AM they read stories and sing songs for preschool kids. This particular morning the group sounded especially fired up, making nonsense sounds—nahhh!, graaaah!—as kids tend to do. As I turned up my headphone volume on Loke Rahbek & Frederik Valentin's "The Heart Of Things," the seventh track on Elephant, their new album, I realised the cries were actually coming from the track. Oddly enough, this felt like an apt mistake to make. Elephant is a mostly ambient album that seems inspired by unusual juxtapositions and the spatial properties of audio, inviting questions like, what is that? And, where is that sound coming from? Field recordings, instruments (both acoustic and digital), synthesizers and stereo processing are Rahbek and Valentin's tools, as they engage in a process of soft subversions. The results are frequently affecting. Elephant seems like a continuation of Buy Corals Online, their first album together, released on Editions Mego in 2017, and there is overlap with the music Rahbek and Valentin make in other projects. The album arrives via Posh Isolation, the Copenhagen-based label and collective Rahbek, who you might know as Croatian Amor, cofounded with Christian Stadsgaard, who he records with as Damien Dubrovnik. Valentin is one half of the duo Kyo, who've released a string of LPs on Posh Isolation. I'm hesitant to apply labels to such a broad body of work, but between them these projects show a fascination with degraded beauty and aim to arouse deep-listening states. We don't get the demanding noise outbursts as with Damien Dubrovnik, or Kyo's soaring sonic highs, but Elephant is a listening album whose range is still a little deeper and wider than most in its field. There are clever methodologies at play here and a fair number of left turns, but it's worth stressing that the record has its basis in alluring melodies. You may not know if what you're hearing is a modulated elastic band or some esoteric string instrument (as on "Solina") but that should only make the tender piano it sits with more engrossing. The hard-panned sound of what could be someone fiddling with a cassette deck joins a sad, naive synth line on "Touch And Vision," a similar use of stereo-field manipulation and plaintive melodies to that of "Sense World." Strings and guitar are a continual presence, with "The Heart Of Things" perhaps embodying this most elegantly. But there are times when these melodic angles may become a little too sentimental. "Elephant" ends the album on a note of drama that I found too much. And "Scarlett," the only track with drums, works better with the folky guitar up front, before the euphoric synths drench the arrangement. Perhaps these peaks are needed to contrast with the delicacy elsewhere. As a label, Posh Isolation seems keenly attuned to the relative relationships between sounds—how loudness leaves its mark on quietness, for example. In this respect, Elephant is a banner album, exploring how perceptions of the familiar and inviting can be reshaped by the unfamiliar. On a more basic level, though, it's an album to gently challenge you as you bask in it.
  • Tracklist
      01. Solina 02. Touch And Vision 03. Scarlett 04. In Waves feat. CTM 05. Call Me By My True Names 06. Sense World 07. The Heart Of Things 08. Elephant