At this late hour, when the clichés of music software have been completely internalized and we're satisfied with marginally fresh reconfigurations of the past, it's an accomplishment to make a record and have your audience wonder exactly what's happening and how it was put together. Norwegians Dag-Are Haugan and Phonophani, who record together as Alog, create abstract but accessible instrumental music that neatly stitches sounds birthed inside a computer with live instruments and field recordings. Alog doesn't sound like a band, exactly, but it also feels some ways removed from the bedroom laptop. They seem to be thriving on the spaces that exist between. It's exciting to know that the same duo created both "St. Paul Sessions II" and "The Youth of Mysterious Conversations", which sounds like a highly abstracted cover of Derrick May's "To Be or Not to Be". Each Alog track is its own small world with its own internal logic, and Miniatures collects nine good ones without a single dud. An excellent record.
I know the idea isn't exactly groundbreaking, but some people seem to forget that a great droning piece can be created by something other than a computer or synthesizer. Take “St. Paul Sessions II” for example. Using a simple strumming pattern as a rhythm, the duo create a fantastic dancing of bells, chimes, xylophones, and other percussive instruments to capture a dream world in a 6 minute song. Everything is natural, but still possesses this amazing, other world aura. They also know that to keep the listener interested, even transfixed, they need to mix things up a bit. “Leyden Jar” is the sound of a computer slowly melding down. Clicks and ticks that resemble something closer to haywire electronics than some attempt at IDM witchcraft. Yet, with the wide range of ground covered within Miniatures, everything seems to fit and be in the correct place. Layers upon layers of textures are used to manipulate the listeners mind. You feel yourself twisting and turning with each new track, your mind somehow in tune with the music like lunar tides. Fans of the cool and relaxed musings of Collection of Colonies of Bees, Tortoise, or even The Books, will probably feel right at home with Alog. And if you are at all familiar with the Rune Grammofon family, you know that this is quality stuff. Grab Miniatures the next time you are shopping and I'm sure you'll reach back to get their other previous releases within a matter of weeks. It's the kind of stuff that will be headphone fodder for weeks.
The album is really lovely and understated and is bookended by incredible opening and closing pieces. "Severe Punishment and Lasting Bliss," a soaring and sublime processed guitar drone, gets things started in top form. The closing track, "Building Instruments," is absolutely gorgeous and is the most organic track on the record. The acoustic guitar, harmonium, and trumpet arrangement is reminiscent of the great Swedish trio Tape. The songs in between range more or less between the two extremes, with plenty of looping melodic flourishes and subtle underlying rhythms.
Other Music (US)
”Miniatures” is a puzzle of programming sequences, organic sound structures and melodic noise constructions. ”Building Instruments” is a study in constructive melancholy. Almost like travelling around the world in eighty days. It´s over so quickly you have to do it again. And again.
”Miniatures” is clearly their best album so far. The result is more atmospheric and beautiful than one could hope for. It´s a must have. 6/6.
Bergens Tidende (NO)
Alog are back with ”Miniatures” and the result is both easily recognisable and covering new ground in a creative way. They make varied and fascinating electronic music; a mystical place between composition, minimalism, improvisation, postrock and computer music.
Dag og Tid (NO)
This duo have held a mark of quality for a long time, and with ”Miniatures” they´re better than ever. It now sounds like there are no limits to what possible scenarios they might be able to paint for us in the future.
”Miniatures” is fascinating in its rich details and untroubled flow.
Guitars, electronics and what have we tumble around in a warm kiss of sound that could go on forever. I want to listen to it over and over, be inside the music, dive into a pool of zeroes and ones. Yes, I know it´s a cliche, but ”Miniatures” really is an adventure. The last track is called ”Building Instruments” and sounds like your in the middle of the creative process itself.
”Severe Punishment And Lasting Bliss” features an electronic motif transmitted like a frantic Morse code mantra, before it becomes engulfed in its own swell of distortion. Best of all is ”Building Instruments”. Revealing Alog at their most ostensibly Luddite, its brambly, acoustic improv takes its time setting itself up, before it gives way to the inhalation and exhalation of accordions, guitars, cellos, brass and even a human voice joins in. It´s music that sounds like a group of amnesiacs had awoken from a deep slumber in a room full of old instruments and were slowly, tentatively reaquainting themselves with their possible musical functions.
The Wire (UK)
As they experiment further with this third album and move into more austere musical forms, Alog manage to retain the essence of their original sonic scope, making ”Miniatures” another finely crafted piece of work. Never falling short of inspirations and fresh ideas, Espen Sommer Eide and Dag-Are Haugan continue to provide some of the most graceful and exciting electronica around, and reaffirm here their place amongst Scandinavia's most important electronic musicians.
The third album from one of my three favorite Rune groups makes the second essential Rune release of the year (after Food's Last Supper). The album is completely solid, both patchy and fluid in the best ways. For the Alog-familiar, plenty of surprises wait inside, like the duo's increased incorporation of ambient sound (more on-the-surface and populated with voices) and a pleasant favoritism of live, clatter-heavy percussion over drum machines. As usual, listening is less involved with marveling at just how different sound is shifted into the mix than with the experience of drifting forward with each newly abstracted noise and uncovering the powers of suggestion latent in each.
While the album´s title might suggest microtonal minimalism, it apparently refers to Turkish miniature paintings and their mysterious patterns of radiantly colored objects, a better point of reference for Alog´s bold and fluid sound that ”Miniatures” captures so memorably.
This is a wonderful excursion in an electronic environment with a big heart. Of course there are wellknown elements like beats, loops, samples and all kinds of blip-blops. But this is not music made by computer nerds. Traditional instruments are given plenty of space. Alog combine the best of both worlds.
Any of the nine tracks on “Miniatures” alone would be considered high-quality, but the greatest strength lies in the collective state of balance Alog has found on this, their third release. Never does it stray too far one way or another musically; never does it qualify itself as one genre or another. It's all about the benign state of flux between definitions that has been achieved with “Miniatures”. While it'll almost certainly go unnoticed in an American indie-scene that has written off anything close to "electronica," Alog has recorded one of the years best; even if we can't quite put our fingers on what it's one of the best of.
Big Yawn (US)
These two Norwegians make wonderfully organic electronic music which dissolves barriers if only for the duration of their music (and those barriers are nothing as dull as the boundaries between musical genres). Heartwarming, generous, moving, tender. How often is electronica described thus? Yet Alog's music teems with sprite voices and the heat of feelings. It seems to vibrate in time with something larger than the listener's or its own self. In so doing it lifts and expands the heart with much more than just a heartbeat or thrumming of the fingers.
Signal To Noise (UK)
“Miniatures” is an extremely compounded album that offers a great degree of variation in sounds and combinations from beginning to end, as well as within each track. It comes across as a natural consequence of their two previous efforts, but still distinguish itself because it´s marked by a depht that has not been this present before. This probably makes it more mature and more complete than the previous ones.
This duo continues to widen its horizons and grow at a healthy rate. “Miniatures” is their third opus and, while offering new aspects to the ear, remains as intelligent and quirky as their previous two CDs. Alog's unusual instrumentation is again at the heart of their unique sound: vibes, harmonium and various toys join the array of acoustic and electric guitars and electronic treatments. “Miniatures” may not be as successful as “Duck-Rabbit” in terms of artistic form and repeated listens, but it remains an honest effort from an ever-puzzling outfit.
All Music Guide (US)
”Miniatures” is nine tracks of bewitching eclecticism, ranging from narcoleptic glitch sonata, to primitive drum and chanting, to collage atmospherics, never once stopping off at the pop station. iTunes tells us this is Electronica/Dance music, but we're more likely to file this under What The Fuck? What kind of dancing one might try while listening to the cruddy, hypnotic repetitions of old broken film projectors I do not know. There's music for a clam-bake on a NASA launch pad, but nothing about dancing. Listeners might be excused for thinking this is the kind of CD that's only purpose in life is to confuse its listeners with near anonymity and only a threadbare trace of paradigm. But each song is so jarringly different from the last that it Alog creates its own kind of sense from the total disconnect.
The deeply melodic ”Miniatures” is both more diverse and coarser-grained than your run-of-the-mill electronica. “St. Paul Sessions II,” for instance, is dominated by Steve Reich-alike drumming and very electric Krautrock guitar. Then there's “Steady Jogging of the Heart,” which layers New Age cut-ups over honk-and-splash roadside ambience. And album-opener “Severe Punishment and Lasting Bliss” pits heavy metal drone against bright, percolating synth, the latter losing out by the song's halfway mark.Toward the end of Miniatures, several tracks eschew the bleep and blurp of electronics altogether. The Folkwaysesque “Buffalo Demon” resembles a field recording from an outdoor market, its lazy Indonesian percussion mingling with early morning voices and the clink of coinage on wooden tables. And the melancholic 13 minute album closer, “Building Instruments,” is equally rustic and raw: From amid the cautious footsteps and guitar tuneup emerges a wall of harmonium buzz 'n' thrum that is as craggy as it is beautiful.
Washington City Paper (US)