TTW#14 - Leif Elggren - All Animals Are Saints
Cassette only - limited edition of 250 copies
A: The Life of the Plants - 13m46s
B: Swedenborg's Organ - 17m43s
The Life of the Plants recorded at “The Night of the Long Worms”, Café Oto, London on 19 November 2009. First performed at Kontiki, Botanic Sounds, Gothenburg, Sweden on 6 June 2009. Thanks to Joachim Nordwall and Henrik Rylander.
Swedenborg's Organ – recorded at The Showroom, London on 20 November 2009, in celebration of the DVD release of “Death Travels Backwards” by Leif Elggren on Errant Bodies Records. Thanks to Brandon LaBelle, Daniela Cascella, Lucia Farinati, Sound Threshold and Charlotte Engelkes. ( Further details about this event: .pdf)
Leif Elggren is a Swedish artist who lives and works in Stockholm.
Active since the late 1970s, Leif Elggren has become one of the most constantly surprising conceptual artists to work in the combined worlds of audio and visual. A writer, visual artist, stage performer and composer, he has many albums to his credits, solo and with the Sons of God, on labels such as Ash International, Touch, Radium and his own Firework Edition. His music, often conceived as the soundtrack to a visual installation or experimental stage performance, usually presents carefully selected sound sources over a long stretch of time and can range from mesmerizingly quiet electronics to harsh noise. His wide-ranging and prolific body of art often involves dreams and subtle absurdities, social hierarchies turned upside-down, hidden actions and events taking on the quality of icons.
Together with artist Carl Michael von Hausswolff, he is a founder of the Kingdoms of Elgaland-Vargaland (KREV) where he enjoys the title of King.
Aquarius Records (US):
One of two new Tapeworm cassettes on this week's list, the other being the truly strange Autodigest recording of 40 years of bootleg recordings, and then there's this, the latest from Swedish artist Leif Elggren, who has consistently delighted and baffled us with recordings that ranged from totally confusional high concept ultra minimalism, to gorgeous dark dronemuic, to full on NOISE, not to mention lots of writings and art projects, the most infamous being the creation of the “imaginary” country, he dubbed the Kingdoms Of Elgaland-Vargaland (KREV), a country which just so happens to have Elggren as its king!
All Animals Are Saints is a collection of live recordings, the first of which is called “The Life Of The Plants” which features Elggren discussing experiments that found scientists placing electrodes and various recording devices on plants to record their electrical fields, resulting in, a series of strange glitched out minimal soundscapes, which pepper Elggren's talk. A staticky sound field of muted grinding rumbles, stuttery clicks and scrapes, fluttery bits of low end, a distinct drone component, lots of hiss and shimmer, and subtly swooping effects and glitches. As Elggren's story about the experiments continue, the scientists introduce stress into the plants' lives resulting in sounds that are much more abrasive, more rhythmic, a dense cloud of skittery streaks of high end and crackling sheets of skree. Hard to say if we're meant to believe the veracity of Elggren's storytelling, there are plenty of sound artists who have explored the electrical output of plants, or if it's just another high concept art piece, either way it's quite entertaining, and the sounds are definitely fantastic.
The piece on the B-side is called “Swedenborg's Organ”, and again begins as a talk, about a man called Swedenborg, from the 1700's, a musician, a writer, Elggren 'plays' a recording of someone playing Swedenborg's organ, the sound of creaking floorboards, squeaks and moans, thumps and rumbles, precedes a truly haunting, seriously fucked up stretch of slowly unfurling, totally abstract, sort-of-organ music, it's hard to describe, notes moan and wheeze, partial melodies crumble in slow motion, a stumbling, lurching, slow motion, minor key lament, very reminiscent of the recordings of Gurdjieff, but with the addition of those never ending creaks and groans, it's very much like a busted organ being played on a rickety old pirate ship, and sounds very much like something Nurse With Wound could have conjured up!
Like all Tapeworm stuff, extremely limited, this one TO JUST 250 COPIES!!!
*LIMITED EDITION CASSETTE - 250 COPIES ONLY* Swedish artist Leif Elggren has roots in various disciplines: he's a composer, visual artist and stage performer, having previously released on Ash International, Touch and Radium, with perhaps his most famous work being alongside Carl Michael Von Hausswolff for the Kingdoms Of Elgaland-Vargaland project. The first piece on this cassette is “The Life Of Plants”, recorded at London's Cafe Oto late last year. Elggren starts the performance as a spoken-word piece about electromagnetic fields associated with plants and then plays back a supposed sound recording of this botanical energy. It's conspicuously similar to a computer-generated glitch piece in the vein of Pita or one of his Mego contemporaries, but the act is worth going along with, making for a clever and very creative way of presenting music to an audience. The second piece, “Swedenborg's Organ” was recorded the day after “The Life Of Plants”, also in London, this time at The Showroom. This performance coincided with the launch of Elggren's DVD release, Death Travels Backwards, and begins with talk of the 18th century Swedish inventor, philosopher and mystic, Emanuel Swedenborg, who claimed to be in contact with the spirit world. Elggren plays back supposed recordings of his tinkerings with Swedenborg's organ (if you'll forgive the unfortunate turn of phrase), which allegedly resides in Swedenborg's summerhouse. Sure enough, the piece unfolds with wheezing organ sounds and what sounds like creaky floorboards. It's all very spooky and hypnotically rather lovely. The cassette is limited to 250 copies and comes highly recommended.
The Wire (UK):
It takes a certain wayward determination to run a cassette-only label in the 21st century, eschewing the ubiquitous ease of CD-Rs in favour of the clunky plastic artefact. Since 2008 [2009 - ed.], The Tapeworm has been justifying that effort with a series of releases that make explicit use of the benefits and limitations of the format, and each of the disparate works that make up this latest batch highlights, in its own way, the enduring peculiarities of magnetic tape.
Swedish conceptual/performance artist Leif Elggren taps into the cassette's long association with spoken word. “The Life of Plants” provides a treatise on the emotional experiences of plants, coupled with understated electronic interpretations of vegetable moodswings; and, on “Swedenborg's Organ”, a brief lecture on the Swedish philosopher introduces a field recording on Elggren playing the eponymous instrument, with the wheezing, rhythmic creak of the bellows building a lulling, nautical reverie.
Vital Weekly (NL):
Leif Elggren was in London in November 2009 to present his DVD release “Death Travels Backwards” (see Vital Weekly 710). The first night he read a story, followed by music of a highly strange kind. It sounds electronic, with all sorts of peeps with intervals of a varying length - it could be processed voice. It has that sort of minimalist sound that we know and love Elggren for. Then the story continues and more processed sounds. An odd piece. The b-side is entirely instrumental with some odd sound from a small organ, and what seems to be the squeaking of a door or some other object being rubbed. Perhaps not indeed the sort of thing to put on a CD release, but surely quite captivating. A great private document.