J.Peter Schwalm: The Beauty Of Disaster

Eno Collaborator draws triumph from disaster.

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Gazing at satellite photographs of the 2010 Deepwater Horizo oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Schwalm was awed by the environmental crisis, but also the perverse and terrible beauty of those images.

This music oozes into focus at a glacial pace, infused with an air of drama, melancholia and slender threads of hope. With stellar contributions from guitarist Eivind Aarset in places, Schwalm’s pieces are nuanced and orchestrally textured, with meticulously sculpted, cinematic sound design: cavernous drifts, distant light bursts, subsonic rumbles are felt rather than heard. Zirkeltrilogie’s beautifully crafted descending strings are industrially abraded. Pummeled by percussive shots, and ruffled by the slow-motion sonic boom of distant piano chords creeping across the piece, Schwalm’s treatments extend way beyond the usual pre-set, button-pressing tropes of electronic music. On his 2001 collaboration with Brian Eno, Drawn From Life, Schwalm notably wove vibrant and heartfelt elements into material that might otherwise be cold or unyielding. He does the same here too, and it’s just beautiful to behold.