Top 10 2011 #06: BJ Nilsen & Stilluppsteypa – Big Shadow Montana (Helen Scarsdale Agency, 2011)
If 2011 has been one thing for music it is without any doubt the revival of the Koschmische musik. Acts like Emeralds, Oneohtrix Point Never, James Ferraro and many more have released albums that in some sense grabbed back to the seventies electronic music like Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze and the likes. As I personally have a hard time listening to arpeggios a lot of this kind of music is wasted on me, though a few releases stood out this year. I quite enjoyed listening to Mountains, Expo ’70 and there was BJ Nilsen & Stilluppsteypa.This last group has been working together now for quite some time and Big Shadow Montana is their 8th release since 2005. With the first releases the music is mainly drone and dark ambient, but since their previous release Space Finale (Edtions Mego, 2010) other elements have been coming in. Though, on there new effort it is the first time the music is created with mainly analogue machines (as far as I know at least). The LP contains two untitled pieces both just over 22 and 23 minutes.
Side A starts out with a familiar sound, rumbling drones, noisy soundscapes and oozing bassess. But gradually under the thick layer of dust a synthesizer is popping up. Not that there are melodies, no the first 5 minutes stay dark and dense. Heavy choral sounds and rumblings.
But at the end of the 5 minutes a rhythmic bassloop sets in, combined with recordings of clattering metal. A slow melody sets in and eventually the thick delay’s we know from Germany in the 70’s appear. But instead of making bubbling arpeggios BJNilsen, Helgi Thorsson, Sigtryggur Berg Sigmarsson keep in control to fit it with their own sound.
So it isn’t any surprise that this abruptly ends. Only to reappear after a few minutes again.
Or at least the synthesizers reappear. A sudden glimpse of Tangerine Dream comes to mind but nowhere with actually being copy cats (like many of the others).
This piece is really living with dark drone passages and lighter bubbling synths and other weirdness.
On the flipside we find a piece in a similar vain, though here you can directly hear the analogue synthesizers creating the drones. The filtered oscillators are pumping their sounds in to the air again in a dark, almost scary sound.
Throughout this side of the record the analogue sounds are much more clear. There are nicely dissonant waves screeching and crying, making this side much more droning. For the first 10 minutes it stays rumbling and dark. But from that moment there is a major twist in the sound. Pulses, rhythms and melodies take over the sound. Now we get really close to the sound of early Tangerine Dream, but as sudden as these come, the disappear again.
This side of the record, much more than side A, is build up from different blocks. Which becomes clear in the last 6 or so minutes when we return to the darker elements again. We hear soft synths, field-recordings and rumbling sounds. The drones reappear, but this time less dark and dense. There is a more sci-fi touch to this part.
And slowly we move to the end of the record in a way we remember the boys from Iceland and Norway again.
BJ Nilsen and Stilluppsteypa use influences from the old Kosmische Musik, but without loosing their own sound. They do not adept to fit in with the rest, but rather stay true to their self. So even I, as with a huge allergic reaction to arpeggios and such can still listen to this in with pleasure. And so it happens to even gain a spot in the top 10 list for this year.
Go grab the vinyl while you can.
Listen to an extract:Big Shadow Montana Extract
Buy the limited LP here: http://helenscarsdale.com/published/bigshadowmontana.htm