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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