Marja Ahti - Still Lives
Building on the accomplishments of two groundbreaking LPs for Hallow Ground - 2019’s Vegetal Negatives and 2020’s The Current Inside - as well as Why Do Birds Suddenly Appear?, her stunning duo with Niko-Matti Ahti released by Ouidah last year, the Swedish-born, Finland based artist / composer, Marja Ahti, returns with Still Lives, her first LP on Students of Decay. Across the album’s two sides - venturing further into unknown creative territory - Ahti’s delicate hand transforms raw sonic materiality into a shimmering and immersive tapestry - imbued with humanity and life - that presents electronic process and musique concrète on visionary new terms.
Active for more than a decade, first issuing solo efforts under the moniker Tsembla, as well as working within the psychedelic improv collective Kemialliset Ystävät, over the last few years the Swedish-born, Finland based, artist and composer, Marja Ahti, has risen to prominence within the global context of experimental music, increasingly gaining critical accolades for a series of releases issued under her own name. An artist who takes nothing for granted, through the vessel of her work, Ahti endeavors to challenge and reconfigure fundamental elements of meaning that are carried by language and sound, setting out to build them again from scratch. The result, blending metaphor and abstraction, seamlessly binds the familiar and known - be it fleeting impressions of the natural world or elements and approaches to experimental music - through a radically unfamiliar pattern of human action and thought.
Her latest, Still Lives, issued by Students of Decay in a limited vinyl edition of 300 copies, takes this line of inquiry to beautiful new extremes. Comprising eight compositions that double as studies into the liminality of listening and the physicality of sound, across the album’s two sides Ahti forges vivid electroacoustic environments from field recordings, analog synthesizers, acoustic feedback, magnetic tape and digital processing, resulting in a strikingly visionary reimagining of electronic process and musique concrète, within which impressions of a source material’s identity is retained, while simultaneously being allowed to be heard on autonomous and fully dislocated terms.
In Ahti’s own words, “These pieces could be conceived of as vanitas paintings of a kind – selections of mundane or archetypal objects, sounds that have their own distinct qualities, but exist only by virtue of being temporary events. From another angle, one could think of them as shrines – objects assembled and set in a particular relationship to each other, charging each other in their given constellations.”
Formed from tense collisions of harmony and dissonance - buzzes, long shifting and intersecting tones, textural abrasions and trickles, and impressions of nature intersecting with the technological and industrial - each piece, across the length of Still Lives, encounters the 'non-musical' taking on a new musical life, and proves Ahti to be what we suspected all along; one of the great, holistic voices in contemporary electroacoustic music resting in our midst. Issued by Students of Decay in a very limited edition of 300 copies on vinyl, Still Lives stand high among our favourite records of the year.