Helge Sten's decade was most fruitful, as these discs evince. While so much of the technical and theoretical underpinnings of this vast genre (alternatively called electronic, experimental, techno, ambient, drone, etc) are American, the artists who digested its lessons most fully during the past two generations have been from Europe, and particularly Scandinavian. From the US we have Moogs, ARPs and Buchlas, and aesthetes before them predicting and/or commissioning such inventions; in Europe they create laboratories and institutes. Stunning exemplars come from all over--Brazil, Siberia, Japan especially. Yet for those in search of audio majesty aimed directly skyward, most often it comes from places like Oslo, Helsinki, Stockholm, Trondheim.
Partly by design, partly by chance, Deathprod now ranks among the foremost of these artists, producing a deeply realized sound that is also a withering emotional experience. Multivalent, epic, it takes the listener some time to absorb precisely what Sten is out to achieve, but when one does, the luminosity of the works presents itself with great force.
This is not to say the set lacks humor. The poet Matt Burt takes a turn on 6:15 clearly limning John Cage; his effeminate voice uncannily resembles Cage in the narratives and lectures from Folkways and Everest recordings of the late fifties and early sixties. To these ears, only references to parenthood and Nintendo among the wordplay jarred me into the realization that Sten was effecting a wry tribute to the late Modernist titan.
All else is slowly shattering sound, audio information, music, and nothing much involving the laptop (notebooks and the software running on them being embryonic at the time most of this music was recorded). Violins, the elements, tape, analog devices, even wax cylinders conspire together to make time unravel before one's ears. Ironically, what's most notable in these long, sprawling works is concision: compression, redaction and meticulous editing, like a canvas of the ocean with each wave crisply defined. Exalted.