MYSTERY SEA 46 | náhvalur | [aboideau]


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- "...and in the lofty sky
whose dull tones no longer recalled heat or sadness
everything was propitious to night and indefinite meditations..."


-náhvalur, March 2008


Alexandre Rito, the single French man & dronologist with projects under the names of Oh, Birds! (and cd-r releases for Dust Apparition, Palustre, and Cook An Egg) and more recently Xalaxsxaq (whose debut on MS is already scheduled) & UK delicate soundscaper Matthew Ellis (operating also under the Parhelion moniker with Emily from Sorrel, and under Openverge, his own solo experimental-ambient folk vehicle) have teamed up to form the arcane náhvalur...

náhvalur navigates clearly into the unspeakable, conveying a force and a prodigious sense of Mystery...

At the edge of what could be an ageless dim wood
long belts of humus sigh
spreading as erratic evaporations
floating nonchalantly...
The soil flutters seeming to murmur...
"aboideau" fans out, flirting furtively with the opaque shadows
sounding the depths, and all things invisible
to extirpate its core...
a world of vast meaningful echoes & sibylline activity
a metaphysical immersion...


01. roth rámach
02. remora
03. laveer
04. pleistocene




VITAL WEEKLY 626|Frans De Waard
Once again Mystery Sea finds somebody (actually two) of whom I never heard. Náhvalur is made up of Alexandre Rito from France, who records as Oh, Birds! and Xalaxsxaq (and as such will have a release on Mystery Sea soon) and from the UK Matthew Ellis, otherwise known as Parhelion and Openverge. I assume they exchange files per (e-)mail. Their four tracks on 'Aboideau' are trade mark pieces for the catalog of Mystery Sea: the aquatic, deep sea drone music. Taking sounds from the washing machine, a ventilator or something like that, they transform the whole thing into music which sounds like you having your ears under water. Sounds from far away become mingled, semi-distorted and far away, muffled. As such I must say nothing new under the drone sun (or should that be: nothing new on the waterline?), but Náhvalur play quite a decent job at their music. Nothing too spectacular, nothing too weird either. Just a plain, solid job.
vital weekly

Listening now to náhvalur: The closing track 'pleistocene' is particularly instructive of the whole. if, indeed, glaciology were a genre of ambient music, náhvalur would represent seminal contributors to the discipline. while 'glacial drone' has become a boilerplate in the phraseology of oh so many lazily penned reviews while, at the same time, appreciating the other colossal sound blizzards that have long covered the atmospheric aural landscape (e.g., subotnick, biosphere et al)--alexandre & matthew are simply too adept in their appreciation for the resonant silences and subtle geologic indicia--they hear the distances and let be heard the delicate echoes. These works of microscopic fragilities gust with an air of originality that prohibits easy lumping into an unsatisfying 'polar ambience' designation. 'Aboideau' is simply too realized in its detail-rich, exquisitely layered compositional mass to be heard in any way but on its own, frore and wholly liquescent terms.
Ben Fleury-Steiner

WHITE_LINE | Baz Nichols  
"...Náhvalur treats us to what amounts to a dronescape, but this is no ordinary dronescape, as it is beautifully and subtly handled, with a gentility and resonance that lures me in to its wake. On “aboideau Náhvalur (a teaming up of two artists, Alexandre Rito and UK based Matthew Ellis) appear to be seeking out a new, arcane language with which to communicate. Infused with subtle resonances and interplays of harmonics and cross-phasing, aboideau experiments with the medium of drones, panning them around the audio spectrum, and creating swirling, luminous presences, vast cavernous pieces that then drift into the ether, metaphysically re-connecting on some other plane.

Náhvalur (where do people get these names from?) are operating in the field of drone music previously populated by Andrew Chalk & Christoph Heemann's Mirror project.  Delicate, multi-hued, gently unfurling tones that are a little grittier (sprinkled with pops and crackles) and a little darker than those produced by those illustrious counterparts but that's not to detract from what's on offer cause what's on offer is very good. However (on track 3) when he adds the field recordings to the mix 'aboideau' lifts and becomes a mighty fine release indeed.  One that has been haunting my stereo for many weeks and which I suspect will continue to do so.
wonderful wooden reasons

Behind this puzzling moniker hide Alexandre Rito (defined a “dronologist” by the liners) and Matthew Ellis. Did this writer know them before? No way. What about the plethora of other projects featuring their involvement? No clues from the names listed on those same notes. Do I like this record? As Jim O’Rourke would have it, “fuck yeah!” Not only that: the reviewer also feels duty-bound to affirm that this is one of the best recent Mystery Sea releases, the main argument being the linearity of the essential concept. This is the correct manner in which an album fitting in what, for ease or idleness, critics define as the “dark ambient” cauldron should be made. Take a few sources, systematize and broaden them minus unnecessary bells and whistles and, in particular, without 1) distant reverberating thuds à la Chris Carter’s “Millennium”; 2) processed didjeridoos or additional exotic breath instruments; 3) praying or chanting people of any kind; 4) atrocious vocal samples and plastic presets; 5) stones rattling in a can and/or similar pre-school playgroup activities 6) excessive liquids (we shouldn’t say this when writing of a label whose key inspiration is oceanic but hey, as much as I myself love water sounds it’s come to a point where a plumber will have to be called for all this leaking from the speakers). Right, there’s water here too, used very unobtrusively though. Náhvalur start with a prosperous drone and, except for a slight modification of the surrounding ambience, end with that unchanged notion. Beautiful, suggestive hums from some place we can’t visualize and will probably never see, low frequencies - enriched by sloping currents - that remain in the proximity of stagnancy until the closing stages: no ineffectual movements, no voices from the dead, no arctic bullshit. That’s what one needs from the genre, and “Aboideau” - thank god, it still happens - delivers.
touching extremes

SONOMU|Stephen Fruitman   --- NEW !
A perfectly amphibious album - splashing about in and around the water - harmoniously constructed by Alexandre Rito and Matthew Ellis as Náhvalur, "narwhal" in Icelandic and Faroese.
”Roth Ramach” achieves admirable aquatic stillness with nothing but a low rumble disturbed only by the occasional bubble rising toward the surface. ”Remora” sounds absolutely ear-splitting in comparison, wind whining across the surface of a chill Scottish loch. As it sweeps unrelentingly past, the listener seems to be moving toward something more substantial, a mysterious buoy or even a crowd of rescuers on the shore, brought to the scene by the ringing of village church bells. For it does indeed convey a sense of danger.
”Laveer” sounds just as nautical but its rough seas seem much less threatening, as if viewed from a secure, dry place, perhaps the "aboideau" (tide gate) of the album title. This the longest piece opens to present a wider and broader albeit still grey-scaled vista as it proceeds, punctuated by mystery sounds.
The ”Pleistocene” is of course the ice age and eventual emergence of modern man. And if this track is meant to convey the harsh snow squalls confronting an ancient hunter and gatherer somewhere in the central European Alps fighting the cold in search of quarry, it certainly succeeds in a surprisingly cinematic manner.