Jonas Kasper Jensen’s album Layers Of Bridges is a noise-based, provocative sculptural soundscape where large stonewalls tower high above the listener. It is an intense journey where sounds at times are hard and spiky, at times reminiscent of shifting light that moves in shades of darkness – menacing, invasive and powerful – and at other a softness that envelops you in suspended, constant vibration. Always done with flair, the contrasts overtly seek the edges; the edge of what music and what art is, inviting the question what is sound?
Jonas Kasper’s electronic universe evokes a dialogue between music and art. Listening to Layers Of Bridges is a journey through a sonic sculpture that invites the listener to explore listening’s subjective creations. The album gently invites a shift in aural focus, a change in the angle of attention that brings to life facets of the sculpture. Buried inside the album’s formidable sonic makeup are harmonies that at first impression may challenge and provoke, but through carefull listening expose that things silent and profound hide inside the chaotic mixture of this intense and multi-layered sound.
Jonas Kasper Jensen’s Layers of Bridges is a stimulating test of patience in static noise, which, despite its abstraction, has musical quality. DroneArt at its finest that should be heard at loud volumes. 4/5
Jonas Kasper Jensen is a visual artist who regularly engages in sound works, and Layers of Bridges is his fifth major audio work. Whereas the previous efforts all were based on sound installations or parts of an exhibition, Layers of Bridges is his first album of independent compositions. The title seems to indicate the composite technique: the seven pieces – all exactly 5:30 minutes long – are made up of layers of repetitive patterns and drones that alternate with slowly sliding textures. In itself not a new approach, but Jensen does it very professionally and with differentiated atmospheres. In the opening track Truss Deck, metallic, sharp and grainy drones are set in motion as different waves and loops, together with squealing metallic strokes. Segmental Box Grider is based on an organ-like and vibrant drone, whereas Floorbeam offers a broad, almost symphonic sound, as a sea of noise envelopes a distant tone that suggests the sound of brass instruments. In Stayed Girder, vibrating piano strings produce a reverberating drone devoid of melody, giving way for the circling movement of loosely layered fragments. In Culvert and Channel Beam the wall-of-sound is particularly dense, ominous and chaotic whereas the last track is slightly faster changing. All compositions are thoroughly solid and well-made structures: a sonic architecture.
Here, the “Drone/Noise” category is misleading, because even if Jonas Kasper Jensen’s work as a graduate of the Städelschule in Frankfurt is more in the context of art and that he is working with different media, this is already his third album, and you can classify him as an accomplished electronic musician or composer. Layers Of Bridges is made up of seven, five-and-a-half-minute pieces, each of which is a very powerful contribution to the noise saga.
The “multidimensional, sculptural landscapes”, as the artist describes them, are wonderfully suited to loud listening pleasure. One piece sounds with its metallic industrial noises as if from a sound factory, and some may think wistfully of the work of the recently master and pioneer of the genre, Mika Vainio. Another is vaguely reminiscent of the space-trips of a Ligeti… But Jensen is not a bad copy, he is in search of his own sound-world, and he succeeds most of the time. Whether the time restriction of each track on the album was really necessary remains questionable: sometimes a piece ends too abruptly, compositions are simply cut off rather than led to a conclusive end. This is a pity, but the album is only slightly perforated.
All tracks on Layers Of Bridges are cut to exactly the same length. Since each track is likened to a sculpture without temporal beginning or end, each composition in turn represents a permanent presence that is exposed to the ear for the duration of the track. The duration is an indicator of how long one has to ‘listen to the sculpture’ to get in touch with the offering of each layered piece. The result is a collection of 5:30 minute long sound-objects.
Sound and physical material is inseparable to Jonas Kasper Jensen and his compositions is an integrated aspect of his artistic praxis.
Jakob Emdal made the cover art especially for the release. Jakob is an artist that works primarily with photography and his images has had a strong inspiration on the sound of Layers Of Bridges.
Compositions by Jonas Kasper Jensen
Produced and mixed by Jonas Kasper Jensen
Mastered by Lars Graugaard
Artwork by Jakob Emdal
Layers Of Bridges is a set of barren computer-generated sonic landscapes. It’s a relatively established arrangement of digital hums and unnaturally long reverbs, counter-playing tones and wave synthesis. While the track names have an architectural theme, sonically this is open, near-empty space.
Each of the seven tracks is exactly 5:30, and most fade in and out, as though each environment is infinite but 330 seconds is the permitted visiting time. Each environment is relatively static – there’s a faint degree of evolution within pieces like Thru Arch but for the most part it’s eventless.
Stay Girder opens with a repeating piano note that suggests the arrival of new structure, but the reverb and layering soon degenerates the note into a sonic bath that fits the rest of the pieces; imagine I Am Sitting In A Room based on a single piano note rather than the spoken word.
The exception to this format is the fifth track Culvert, which is a discordant and unsettling loop of electronics with a tense throbbing bass tone. Were it not for this track, and perhaps the distant drilling sound of Channel Beam, this release would be going on my ‘music to sleep to’ playlists, but this track is an anachronistic wake-up call.
As a complete work it does fall a little short of distinctive flavour or character but as a surprisingly soporific collection of rigidly prescribed hum soundscapes, it mostly works very well.
A sound sculpture heard from seven different angles.
Jonas Kasper Jensen is educated at the art school in Frankfurt and has mainly engaged in sound art – both under his own name and as part of the group WULKAN. On his fourth release, Layers of Bridges, his background in art does not deny, as the album deals with the listener’s perception of sound. This happens by letting the listener meet an audio sculpture based on a conceptual approach to noise and soundscapes.
Each song on Layers of Bridges is thus connected to the same sound sculpture. The sculpture as a whole does not exist, but the numbers must be seen as a permanent snapshot of the listener, where it is possible to immerse oneself in the sound of the sculpture. The idea is that the listener’s focus and immersion will produce different aspects of the sound sculpture under the different numbers.
The sound sculpture is purely thematically inspired by bridges. Each title thus refers to different types of bridges and their building elements. A theme that works well using metallic humming and often rhythmic noise and drones as well as piano to create images of the bridge’s metal and concrete.
The album begins with the techno-inspired Truss Deck. Then, alternate layers of repetitive piano loops alternate with those who fill the sound image on Stay Girder, and roaring ambient like on Floorbeam. The many layers of piano and sound are a clear force for the album and folds out on Stay Girder whose intensity catches the listener.
Despite the fact that the album’s songs are based on the same sound sculpture, noise is used in many different ways, and the numbers change in expressions. According to the press material about the album, it is due to many different layers and settings, but it is also ads a bit of an inconsistency in the concept.
Although listening and sound are at the center, Jonas Kasper Jensen’s artistic background and the conceptual constraints of the album can be restrictive. Sometimes the conceptual approach to Layers of Bridges is limiting.
All the tracks on the album are exactly 5 minutes and 30 seconds long. The locked length can be a barrier to the unfolding of each song, but Jonas Kasper Jensen manages most of the album to remain interesting within the time frames, although the start of the album is a bit sluggish.
Overall, Layers of Bridges is a solid release rooted in noise and ambient. Especially Jonas Kasper Jensen’s use of multifaceted themes of sound and themes makes him worth following in the future.