Richard Allen, A Closer Listen, March 1, 2015

Most albums are instantly accessible, their underlying concepts easily penetrable by the common public. Not so Morphogenèse, an album that travels from deep sea to deep space, searching for boundaries yet finding only greater expanses.

The track descriptions can be intimidating, so we’ll quote only one in this review. Erik Nyström‘s first sentence reads, “The title alludes to phases where sound is undergoing a process of molecular milling, fragmenting into its most primitive constituents, not unlike the ‘catabolic processes’ Rudolf Arnheim described in his essay Entropy and Art.” The artist is clearly not appealing to the average reader. For such (including myself), we’ll need a different tactic.

The title of the album can be broken into root words morphê (shape) and genesis (beginning), which makes morphogenèse “the beginning of the shape.” Nyström’s work is inspired by matter, space and sound as they evolve and/or decay. More importantly, his interests lie in the “novel organization of sound.” On this album, he executes his vision in a series of elaborate, extended movements.

The album is approachable not only despite its complexity, but because of it. These five pieces — none briefer than 12 minutes — may lack hooks, but they yield a clear sense of direction. Nature vacillates between the random and the ordered, and these compositions follow suit; while each changes shape as it develops, each has a chartable shape, from parabola to ascending line, suggesting later patterns like unfinished frames of code.

Nyström’s electronic bubbles and teeming drones imitate familiar sources: boiling water, steam hisses, lapping waves, buzz saws, wind. Some churn like magma; others erupt like hot spring geysers. An occasional bell strike offers a solid foothold on an occluded path; on Lucent Voids, brooks and birds contribute a sense of (adapted) reality. The repeated chords of Cataract yield the most recognizable form, yet even these change along the way. The components remain in motion, adopting new paths, imitating the black tributaries of the cover image.

These thickets of sound reflect unmapped territories, exuding promise and danger. It may have been difficult for Nyström to commit them to disc: a fixed form for the unfixed. In his mind, these works continue to mutate, like black holes expanding and imploding.

… these works continue to mutate, like black holes expanding and imploding.