Like it’s twin sculptural namesakes, Helena Espvall’s split label (Pax Recordings and Fire Museum Records will share the tab) release “Nimis & Arx”, is an improbable construction. Cellist Espvall, who I happily find out of Espers acid-folk mode; is joined by George Korein, an electronic agitator with a healthy interest in trilobites.
That’s not to say you should be surprised. Between these two, there are more than enough disperate projects, obscure references, and oddball influences to scare a team of resume coaches to death. Espvall, a Swedish transplant to Philadelphia; is a member of Espers, and has played or collaborated with Fursaxa, Pauline Oliveros, Eugene Chadbourne, and an Arabian music ensemble. Korein, who previously released a solo trilobite-inspired album with collaborations from Kayo Dot and Stinking Lizaveta members, has also been called out in interviews as a heading the “WTF is going on” genre for his part in Infidel?/Castro!
From the moment this disc starts, you know its going to be a lot of fun to listen to. “Idioblast” opens the album with overdriven cello. It sounds like Espvall is threshing winter wheat on the strings, while Korein opens up a distorted peephole on Candyland. Its a fleeting experience, though– both this and the next, more finely-wrought track, clock in at little over a minute each. Thankfully, the title track “Nimis & Arx” gets more room to develop. On an uncomfortable bed of pops, metallic explosions, and carillion thunder; Espvall layers recorder (and possible vocals) in loon-like warbles. Prepared guitar sounds, washes of shimmering chimes, and something that sounds like electronically-processed popcorn round out the trip.
However jumbled this may appear to be in writing, it works very well on “Nimis & Arx.” Espvall and Korein are in control of their sounds at all times, it would be too modest to suggest “happy accidents” at work here. An album such as this is not only an interesting listen on its own, but also a wonderful antidote to musings that you’ve “heard it all.”