Review: Ahti & Ahti – Why Do Birds Suddenly Appear? (Ouidah, Mar 27)

“Why do birds suddenly appear?” is less a question regarding phenomena of nature and more of a recognition of humanity’s increasing irrelevance in the environment surrounding us. Birds don’t “appear,” they simply find their way into our field of perception, but it’s a very human thing to place our own senses in the role of objective observer (though here there’s somewhat of a sardonic concession with the inclusion of “suddenly,” seemingly a recognition of the beholder’s inattentiveness/fallibility). The first release from Finnish duo Ahti & Ahti (Marja Ahti and Niko-Matti Ahti) follows an evolving tradition in contemporary experimental music of uncertain or distorted origin as captured field recordings, modular synthesis, and household improvisation are carefully assembled into a fluid composition. Both sides of the LP open with quaint yet slightly mysterious vignettes of breezy garden domesticity in a similar vein to the first track on Daniel Löwenbrück’s cassette 1800m, both of which blur the border between active participation and passive observance. The birds sing of their own accord, but is that just a wind chime swaying lazily in the wind or the intentional sounds of a homemade instrument? Is that some sort of flute-like wind instrument or the sporadic interjections of a distressed gull? Further uncertainties creep into the mix when the separately recorded electronic elements are introduced, creating unexpected and indecipherable textural interactions with irreconcilable spacial implications. Shifting, ambiguous, and deceptively eclectic, Why Do Birds Suddenly Appear is a pleasant and disorienting romp back and forth through a partition that many artists refuse to cross.