Review: Arturas Bumšteinas – Organ Safari Lituanica

int019 700Even when Organ Safari Lituanica splays into a mess of tooting dissonance and billowing air, there remains a sense of conscious organisation. The album never reaches a state of total chaos; organs are forced to leave or hush down if the space becomes too unruly, and each organ seems to maintain a certain awareness of the others as it navigates the frame. The record was recorded during summer 2015, when Bumšteinas visited church organs in 20 Lithuanian villages and had improviser Gailė Griciūtė play on each. Bumšteinas then arranged the material into three long-form compositions, transforming the zigzags of reflex into structural strands that interconnect and counter-balance eachother: descending scales crash upon beds of low major chord drone, while notes shoot upward from smears of discordance like budding flora, wriggling free of Bumšteinas’ microtonal mud.

This sense of deliberation and interrelation is what makes the record compelling, but it’s also what makes it listenable. Organ Safari Lituanica is not just a jumble of overlain recordings, but an attempt to bring isolated circumstances into conversation with eachother – finding chance alignments between oblivious flashes of happening, or using the conclusive cadences of one recording to complete the sprawling query of another. But it’s conversational on an acoustic level as well. Each session involves a different organ with an entirely different timbre and set of quirks/clunks, played into a room of a different size and reverberant characteristics. Some sound like they’ve been salvaged from old fairground carousels, bleating jovially into the open air. Some appear to have been recorded from the back of the room, wading through the mist of their own acoustic reflections. It’s a negotiation of space and texture, curdling thick church echoes to make them even thicker, planting the shriller organs atop those with an earthlier, anchoring aesthetic, arranging individual spaces into a plain that ripples and whirrs into three dimensions.

While Bumšteinas indulges in moments of cacophony and terrifying incoherence – the hideous wail of several organs played with the palms of hands, crushing notes together into hurricanes of overtone and forced air – they feel like deliberate acts of deception. I’m supposed to feel as though he’s dropped the reins, so that the stretches of strange and beautiful alignment seem all the more miraculous. At one point during the final piece, the organs slump into a passage of soft, funeral-esque contemplation, during which three or four of the instruments console eachother through low arcs of melody and gentle hums of minor key. Later on, a gigantic wall of noise disperses to leave little tumbleweeds of religious reverie; intermittent snatches of half-hymns, somberly searching for one another in the emptiness. Unknowingly, Griciūtė is collaborating with alternate states of self, expressing sentiments whose true meaning only becomes clear when harmonically clarified by a Griciūtė of another place and time.