October 13, 2013 at 6:47 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Bjerga/Iversen – various Bandcamp downloads.

b-i - extended techniques b-i - harmonic halflife b-i - endless tapes b-i - maps of electric transmissions b-i - random systems b-i - three units of magentic flux b-i - crumbling layers b-i - divided by zero b-i - dripping galaxies

(Editor’s note: apologies for the delay in comms from RFM – ten days between posts is most unusual.  The silence has been due to your faithful editor taking a short recuperative break.  No music, no email, no writing, no work of any kind save chopping wood for the fire – just time spent with wife and child.  Most refreshing.  He is now back, batteries recharged and arms flailing like the duracell bunny, so hopefully the flow will recommence.  First up: some bullet points from Joe, to follow: the hard word from Scott.  Take it away Joe…)

Bjerga/Iversen are a Norwegian duo who take the long view of things.  Over the last ten years Sindre Bjerga and Jan-M. Iversen have released approximately 125 (according to discogs) CD-Rs, tapes and floppy discs and clocked up almost as many live appearances all over Europe.  Their latest project, over and above their normal avalanche of releases, is to place an album each month on Bandcamp.

So who are these extraordinarily busy men?

If you poke a stick randomly into the tangled mess that is the no-audience underground you’ll not jiggle long until you hit upon the name Sindre Bjerga.  He pretty much is the essence of D.I.Y. avant garde: running Goldsoundz, touring extensively everywhere (recently Russia & Japan and the UK jaunt every October) and releasing a slew of records on every micro-label of note; Discogs lists at least 100 solo releases…and this I fear is a conservative estimate.  He is a solo player and the consummate collaborator; plays in a bunch of semi-regular groups (be sure to check out Star Turbine with Claus Poulsen) and you know what?  He’s a funny, modest and generous chap to boot!  Sindre flits between hazy drone, four-track recidivism, jump-cut dictaphonics and, more recently, rambunctious vocal studies. Sindre is the improviser’s improviser.

When left to his own devices Jan-M. Iversen is almost as prolific, recording solo and with guests, masterminding the drone lounge and also finding time to knock out a tower of ambient/drone videos. A look through his back catalogue is sobering, racking up dozens of remixes, collaborations, solo CD-Rs and tapes culminating in the cheekily titled masterwork ‘Monotonous – A Collection of Drones’ released in a snazzy 10 CD box set emblazoned with Jan’s grinning boat race.  Jan’s solo work mainly digs the rich seam of electronics.

Together they specialise in longform drone and organic interrupted glitch.  On paper the idea of the punk-ass fiddler making show with an electro-boffin seems destined to failure.  But they both bring out a third quality, a more-than-the-sum-of-it’s-parts-ness that gently skims over the rough surfaces like weed-drenched plaster.  Time is taken.  And the occasional allusion to Prog Rock fits like a velvet loon.  In an alternate reality I can see Peter Gabriel era-Genesis using Bjerga/Iversen as intro music to stull all the patchouli beards before their theatrical pomp takes the Old Grey Whistle.

Ask them if they are a noise band and the answer is an emphatic ‘no’ but the hallmarks of noise: drawn-out minimal sound sources, clotted notes and the abandoned factory vibe are all here.  They prefer the term psychedelic drone and with such thorough fieldwork who are we to argue.

The concept of ‘ghost sounds’ is visited again and again with mere whispers sneaking through the cracks in the tiling, mould becomes grout and shadows fall where you least expect them.  At times they are the sound of candle light, with the heaviness of felt.  You often get a curious shifting effect too.  This is no clumsy ‘me to you’ approach but more like some old ‘49er panning for gold; sluicing the freezing cold water and gravel to find the dull nuggets with their heavy burden of gravity.

But what does this generous clutch sound like?  In a sloppy-soundbite style, exactly like this…

  • Extended Techniques: Musical saw orchestra in an electric India, arc welding.  The noisiest of the bunch.
  • Maps of Electric Transmission: Magnetic waves breaking on the shore while deep sea divers struggle for oxygen beneath.
  • Three Units of Magnetic Flux: Algebra comes to life!  Force vs Flow…who will win?
  • Divided by Zero: Table Tennis paddle swats steel wool for tin reverberations.  For ex-punks.
  • Random Systems: Stavanger nightlife re-imagined for Tubular Bells.  Seriously pretty.
  • Harmonic Half Life: Almost a found-sound documenting the nightly slosh of an empty accident and emergency room.
  • Crumbling Layers: Featuring a recognisable stringed instrument tugged and bothered among future traffic noise culminating like a Liturgy out-take.  Very beautiful.
  • Dripping Galaxies: Fourth, fifth, sixth-generation tape of a marble being rolled round a Bizen-yaki bowl, played out through crackling Walkman.
  • Endless Tapes: Once a prophesy, now reality.  Keening geese made of lightning weave feedback loops in and out of the negative zone.  Dr Strange looks on and begins the forbidden incantation.

In an ultra generous offer these fine, fine releases are pay as much as you like on the Bandcamp site.  So, if you have a hankering for music that’s “Carving great gestures out of minimal motives: Immersive soundscapes built from naive assumptions” then look no further.  Spare a dime if you can…you know the score.

What’s that?  You want more?  Then be sure to visit Andy Robinson’s fabulous Striate Cortex label for even more future-ethnic drone from these mighty gentlemen.  Bjerga/Iversen…the mark of quality experimentation.

Bjerga/Iversen Bandcamp project

artifacts of the no-audience underground: bjerga/iversen – intersecting parallel lines

March 8, 2012 at 8:42 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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Bjerga/Iversen – Intersecting Parallel Lines (Striate Cortex, S.C.05)

So I was sitting with Neil Campbell in the pub and we were discussing how to make repairs to a tattered attention span.  With particular reference to music, I mentioned that I was consciously trying to beef up my mental stamina.  Neil quizzed me as to my fitness regime and what it boiled down to was this: repeated, close listening.  I’m not talking about musicological analysis – frankly, I wouldn’t know where to start with anything formal or academic – all I do is let it wash over me once or twice then adopt an attentive awareness from then on.

Often just having the thought: ‘I like this, I may post to RFM about it,’ sets the simile-engine chugging.  At its happiest, this makes the writing of a review easy: all (heh, heh – ‘all’) I do is transcribe a bunch of impressions that have arisen naturally as a result of coming to understand the music.  It’s the idle way of working hard, or rather it is my way of improvising, slowly and respectfully, along with the piece in question.  In a sense, reviewing is joining in uninvited and no-one likes an unappreciative loudmouth sitting in on the session, no matter how much the loudmouth thinks they might. 

In the light of the above, let us scrutinise Intersecting Parallel Lines by Bjerga/Iversen – a tasty morsel from early in the Striate Cortex back catalogue, generously served up by Andy Robinson when I complained of being hungry for new stuff.  This is definitely an attention-span-tester: a double CD-r, each disc containing a single track of about 38 minutes duration, but it is also an excellent example of how patience and attention can lead to finishing in the money.

I have noted before – see, for example, my review of the terrific Star Turbine collaboration – that Sindre is fond of using science (and science-ish) vocabulary in his titles.  Sometimes this seems real enough, sometimes it is tongue in cheek, mostly I suspect it is done to add a confounding layer of mysterious, technological sheen.  I wholeheartedly approve of this and, in a shamefully unscientific manner, refuse to look up these terms for fear of breaking the spell.  I am reminded of Arthur C. Clarke’s third law:

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

…and suggest that this release could be read as a musical interpretation of this delicious idea.

‘Real Projective Plane’, the content of disc one, is science drone.  By which I mean: too light and measured to be classed as ‘industrial’ but far too technological to be classed as ‘pastoral’.  Admittedly, some of it may be like lying on a hot beach, eyes closed, after-images of the sun playfully colouring your visual perception of the red-dark, whilst listening to a small aircraft – coastguard maybe? – buzzing overhead, but most is laboratory based.  This is the whirr of apparatus, of magnetic fields containing barely imaginable energies.  ‘Balance’ in this piece is not a state of new-agey oneness but a matter of micrometer focus holding raging forces in check.  The drama in the nothingness is what repeat listens reveal.

‘Fake Projective Plane’, the content of disc two, is science fiction drone.  This has a slightly more narrative feel as we slowly wander around the decks of an inexplicably deserted spaceship.  Life support systems hum, scanners bip, occasionally the background radiation causes swells and distortions in our helmet radio but nothing seems damaged.  Some kind of alien rapture has taken place.  Again, each repeat listen, especially if attentive and uninterrupted, reveals more clues – a nuance, a detail, a smudge on the formica readout – that might explain what has happened.  In fact, it is so wonderful that I am tempted to compare it to the incomparably wonderful ‘Salt Marie Celeste’ by Nurse With Wound to which it is a sort of companion piece: Starfleet Marie Celeste, perhaps.  Those that share my tastes will recognize what high praise that is.

This release is currently available for £3 plus postage direct from Striate Cortex which is, needless to say, an un-fucking-believable bargain.  In fact, this offer is good across a swathe of the SC back catalogue (including stuff I have raved about like Joinedbywire, Orphax, Plurals and Pink Desert etc.) so I insist you visit the buy here page immediately and start throwing money.  If it helps, think of your purchase as the cost of a subscription to radiofreemidwich…

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