“It’s a while since I had an album from what is probably Australia’s foremost post rock/ ambient label, the Perth based near neighbours of Tame Impala that are the Hidden Shoal label, always a source of very interesting and innovative music (Gilded, My Majestic Star, City Of Satellites) and while they’ve been a bit quiet recently, Erik Nilsson is reactivating things with his first release, eight tracks of the kind of electronica/ambient crossover thing that is almost a Hidden Shoal trademark, and ‘Hearing Things’ is an accomplished first album from a Swedish musician about whom I’ve little info, aside from one or two short paragraphs.
First track ‘Ex Nihilo’ opens with the sound of crickets chirping in the Stockholm dusk before going off into a series of guitar explorations, a bit of a soporific album opener but second track ‘Altitude’, with its deceptively wayward intro and sound effects, takes things past the experimental format as the generated tones are joined by a purposeful sounding drum pattern and guitar run and this, I think, is what we want to hear, the post rock / ambient blueprint given an added impetus and as third track ‘On And Onward’ more than hints at Nilsson’s other job as a club music producer, it seems that there’s a bit of a balancing act going on between the differing strands that make up his music. Certainly ‘On And Onward’ could have been titled ‘Altitude Pt 2′ without difficulty as that guitar abd bass drum kick in again. ‘Moksha Can Wait’ has a hint of Tame Impala about it and it’s a different sounding track to much of what precedes it, with Nilsson sounding more adventurous in his choice of sound and rhythms. Gilded’s 2013 album ‘Terrane’ is a real highlight of the HSR back catalogue and Nilsson has perhaps taken one or two tips, even samples, from that album. ‘Mood Swings’ is a more pensive keyboard piece, and the theme carries over into ‘Distance, Wind And Heat’, the piano more focused here and with the guitar and synths trailing the piano motif into what sounds like the taped sound of a railway carriage or elevator and as the track lurches towards its guitar and brass conclusion it brings an oddly paced grandeur to what began as a randomised series of notes. ‘In One-Fifth Of A Second’ breaks up the keyboard parts sequentially and is the most electronic composition on the album, jarring drum notes behind a jagged synth pattern, and it’s an accomplished performance that Nilsson could extend into a much longer piece. Lastly, ‘Drawing/Dreaming’ is a recognisably ambient sound that’s a reflective rejoinder to the frantic electronics that have gone before it.
Over the 40 or so minutes of ‘Hearing Things’ Erik Nilsson covers a lot of ground musically, ranging from the experimental to more conventional styles and then towards more challenging combinations of playing and instrumentation. It is, as Hidden Shoal albums often are, a bit bewildering at times as Nilsson refuses to allow himself to be constrained in one particular format and it’s an album densely packed with ideas and a continuing innovation in how Nilsson presents his music to the listener, and that only adds to the overall effect of ‘Hearing Things’, which is a resonant and impressive one.”