Midaircondo’s Curtain Call is an absolute mess, a record that switches sounds, structures, and goals as though whatever happened before them didn’t matter. If you asked a five-year-old girl to approximate the end of the world using tinsel and the toys in her bedroom, this is what she would produce. There’s no center of gravity; its cohesion is a joke; and though it runs less than 45 minutes, a front-to-back listen feels like crossing Scandinavia on foot. Somehow, though, this messy, desultory quality is a marvel on Curtain Call, a beautifying agent that can make the entire record sound as lithe and wondrous as the wind-swept guitar chimes dancing their way through the title track.
Even before I became aware of who was producing this lovely racket, Midaircondo struck me as a feminine Jaga Jazzist, disciplined in its methods but antsy with girlish delight. Indeed, these experimental musicians from Gothenburg, Sweden, are women. Though one left the group after its debut, Shopping for Images, the two remaining members have turned out a record that sounds about twice as big. Lisa Nordström and Lisen Rylander Löve handle a dozen instruments together, including flute, tenor sax, bass clarinet, zither, kalimba, their own unique voices, and electronics that may as well add a dozen more instruments to the lineup. It isn’t their sheer number that fleshes things out, necessarily; it’s the luxuriant textures Midaircondo wring from them, and the mischievous way the two set the sonics against each other. “Curtain Call”’s guitar floats away in the ether, then is walloped in the other direction by a programmed beat straight out of AGF’s studio. “Below” is 38 seconds of vile backmasking; two tracks later, “The Very Eye of the Night” puts a sensual vocal touch on Max Richter’s post-classical tension.
Because the duo’s skill sets are as wide as its imaginations, Curtain Call has the presence that most disorganized albums lack. You’re right there with the duo along the dips and contours, and although its schizophrenic design means it only sporadically hits the bulls-eye, it’s almost never boring. I only have two significant reservations. The sax doesn’t really work; it’s way too loud, and evokes an ersatz jazz bleat incongruent with the vibe. And curiously, Midaircondo fumble the ball during their pop moments, which sound sort of stuck in one position and have trouble conveying anything very meaningful. Not everyone can be Dntel, though Midaircondo may have an altogether different purpose: to blow a whirling, chromatic hurricane through the buttoned-down electronic music of northern Europe. Its pull is undeniable, a mystique that grows with each new spin.