Mystery Sea (MS37), 2007
Some albums sound like they’re alive. While I’m aware of how poetic or even how cliche that statement might be, it’s the best way I know to explain these particular listening experiences. Albums containing sounds that follow no set pattern, and in most cases, feature very little of what would be considered traditional music. Not every piece of music is made up of chords and melody. Neither, however, are these special albums just completely chaotic and random displays of noise. Although this type of music has its place, they often lack the visceral authenticity of what I’m getting at. Sleep Research Facility does this. So does Terra Sancta. And so does Moth Electret.
It’s impossible for me to talk about Moth Electret’s debut album, LiL, without mentioning the follow-up, Tocasen. I heard Tocasen first, and its audio painting of a lost insect underworld completely floored me with its swarming brand of clicking drones and webs of buzzing samples, all grounded in an imaginary bug mythology. It really did sound like a field recording of some massive underground hive crawling with bizarre and majestic multi-legged beings. LiL uses a similar template, but it’s not as grounded; it doesn’t provide any sort of basic description for you, so you’re left to define things (or not) as you like. It’s an intoxicating and freeing experience, and one so mutable, it can slide easily into any frame of mind.
The components of LiL are as organic as the sound. The eight tracks range from around three to eleven minutes in length. They have inscrutable titles like “kalaa” and “cygal.” Who knows what these titles mean; they could have great significance for sole member Stig Berg (also the man behind R|A|A|N), or they could be made-up words. The point is, they mean whatever you want them to mean. Therein lies the secret of LiL.
When reviewing, I always try to provide some kind of description of the sounds a listener might encounter. I try to be objective, rather than resort to lines of poetic inspiration; while this format is undoubtedly effective in the right hands, I aim to provide something a bit more universal. LiL is one of the first times when I’ve encountered a good deal of difficulty doing that, and I have no problem admitting it. After all, language can be restrictive, can’t it? But if you were to ask me “So what does LiL sound like?” my response would, in all honesty, be, “Well, you have to hear it to believe it.” Tacky, I know, but saying that LiL sounds like a singular mass of high-pitched and slightly distorted series of drones mixed with a series of heavily processed sounds is nowhere near sufficient.
So I could tell you that LiL sounds like a school of synthetic not-fish drifting through sunlit depths full of strange aquatic life, but once you hear it for yourself, you might get a completely different impression. Or I can say is that LiL is the sound of some alien organism, recorded on a microscopic level, like you’re cruising through its innards in true Fantastic Voyage fashion, with a high-level DAT deck sticking out of the porthole. You float along, past organs you don’t recognize and the function you could never guess at, through a series of tubes and tracts and blood vessels, completely ignorant about what might come next, but with the sense that everything you’re witnessing is part of the same whole. You’re surrounded by sounds no human has ever heard; the voice of the inner workings of the otherworldly. But I said I wasn’t going to wax poetic, didn’t I?
I’ll end with this: nothing sounds like Moth Electret, and nothing sounds like LiL. I can’t guess at what this album might make you imagine, but I’d bet it’ll be something you’ve never imagined before. This will only happen, however, if you submit yourself to it fully. LiL is an all-or-nothing experience, and as elitist as it might sound, not everyone will be affected on the same level. It might take a while for it to click. And some may not “get it” at all. And that’s fine. LiL is not music in the traditional sense. It’s almost pure distilled impression, the type that works on your mind on a level few albums reach. It’s like that for me, anyway, every time. In my view, Stig Berg is a master, and LiL is a showcase for his particular brand of obscure genius. Don’t sleep on this one, or rather, should it lull you to sleep, dream deeply.