|1||The Night Hag||33:04|
Context is crucial. Quiet, flowing music full of space is usually associated with a state of tranquillity. It lowers the heart-rate and controls the breathing. It is only one of many ways in which music can have physical consequences. But once you decide to include an element of impending danger, or an unpredictable element, silence is no longer a refuge, but becomes an audible threat. The masters of suspense and terror, whether they are directors or composers, are fully aware of this: nothing scares you as much as an ominous silence that might be disrupted.
You can easily apply this to The Night Hag. Listen without any preconceptions (perhaps only possible if you didn’t read anything about this release, these notes included, in advance) and this slowly evolving composition suggests a wholesome listening experience, with organic transformations and glowing harmonies. At least, until halfway, when some eerier sounds pop up and a certain kind of unease reveals itself. So far, so good. Then I suggest you listen again, preferably with decent headphones, with the knowledge that The Night Hag was inspired by the concept of sleep paralysis.
This is a state that occurs while you find yourself in the transitional stage of waking up or falling asleep. You are fully conscious, but you can’t move. It has happened to both these musicians and to many other people. And it can be terrifying, as the physical impotence often comes with hallucinations (hence the title). Kreng’s harmonised piano sustain sounds that were run through Svarte Greiner’s miasmachine, are no longer abstract waves forming a patiently moving mass of sound, but ingredients of a minimalist mini-symphony of terror, the few discernible piano touches almost functioning as hypnic jerks sucking you towards the void.
Just lie down for a second and try to imagine you are able to hear, see and smell, but you can’t speak or move. Your body becomes a prison, a padded cell. It is the ultimate personal lockdown scenario. For The Night Hag, it turns a vague disquiet into a 33-minute nightmare that is as subtle as it is paralysing. Or, as a true sonic adventurer might exclaim: “Sleep well. In hell.”