- Somewhere in Russia
- VLA (edit)
- Kensington Gardens
- Held together by gravity
Swedish Johannes Hedberg and Daniel Segerstad started their path together as Carbon Based Lifeforms in 1996. In 2002 the signed with the renowned Ultimae Records label and published their first work with them in 2003: Hydroponic Garden. World of Sleepers would follow in 2006 and Interloper in 2010. These three albums form a trilogy oriented towards downtempo, trance and psybient, in the steps of other artists in the label as Aes Dana or Solar Fields. It was to be seen which direction would take their music after closing this stage, and the doubt was cleared up with the release of Twentythree: Carbon Based Lifeforms stripped of every robes and bet everything to pure ambient.
The album opens with 'Arecibo'. The title makes reference to the biggest radiotelescope in the world, located in Costa Rica and popular for counting among its scientific purposes with the search of extraterrestrial life. CBL's music in this theme seems to conjure up the vast inmensity of space, the cold emptiness the cosmic radiowaves would go all over before reaching the scientists in Arecibo. The synth layers build a thick wall hard to run through. There exists a widespread topic about the difficulty of listening to, and appreciate, ambient music, ant Twentythree is not going to be the album that will change it. Because behind that first wall, there is only a bleak landscape.
Whichever system 'System' refers to, is turned off, disconected, inert. There is a slight glow, a fragile harmonic construction in 'Somewhere in Russia', as if that place in Russia were an icy plain of the Siberian steppe: there is life there, somewhere, but we cannot see it, but just sense it. 'Terpene' has a liquid consistency, it is lighter and shifting, also more emotional, within the narrow limits allowed by the extreme minimalism the Swedish duo develop.
The main piece of the album is 'Inertia', the longest and more ambitious. It combines in its bosom organic and watery sounds with deep pads, as if we had descended from outer space into the ocean's deep abyss.
'VLA (edit)' is a cut version of another piece with the same title CBL published that same year. The original was a one hour long composition, experimental in style and tremendously dark and anxious (even a bit monotonous because of its length).
In 'Kensington Gardens' the duo uses field recordings and nature sounds (maybe from the London park that gives name to the theme) to breath life into the piece, which otherwise would continue the stablished path: a naked, mysterious, dark and cold wasteland where everything floats around without sense or orientation. Not even 'Held together by gravity' will release us of the feeling inmense emptiness. This last closing theme may remind in its sound and melody of 1983's Apollo by Brian Eno.
Twentythree was a risky bet for Carbon Based Lifeforms: compared to their previous works, these themes seem subdued, sleep-inducing, even dull. But it is music that invites, no, compel, to a total inmersion, to listen to it with an open mind and the imagination ready to work hard. Twentythree is an uneasy album: it demands an effort, it needs the listener's contribution to be completed. If this is something good or not, is for each one to decide.