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BJ Nilsen & Stilluppsteypa - Góða Nótt

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Artist: BJ Nilsen & Stilluppsteypa

Album: Góða Nótt

Label: Editions Mego

Review date: Nov. 27, 2012

One day while working hard in an Iceland studio, musicians BJ Nilsen and Stilluppsteypa (Sigtryggur Berg Sigmarsson and Helgi Thorsson) looked up and found themselves snowed in. The drifts covered the windows and the trio had no way of knowing if the roof was covered as well, only that they were stuck, without food or water, until the sun or wind cleared a path to freedom. They remained in the small building for several days, accompanied only by an eerie green glow in a window behind their sound equipment and the strange noises emanating from the ice outside. Were these sounds real or their imagination? They decided for sanity’s sake to find out. The result is Góða Nótt.

Nilsen has been working with the sound of the natural and its effect on humans, field recordings and the perception of time and space as experienced through sound since 1996, so despite the various discomforts and cabin fever, the Góða Nótt experiment was one with his own opus. According to the notes that accompany the album, powerful microphones were pushed from the inside of the room out through the ice in an attempt to pick up sound of human life or ice-inspired madness, whichever came first. The result is a superbly unsettling 45 minutes of blurred consciousness, a battle between the real and the imagined. For a field recording, this is astonishingly unambiguous: Claustrophobic dread inoculates the sound. The vibrations of the external landscape closing in are sculpted to reflect the captive’s desire to escape.

The sound itself is a suffocating drone of a noise, accompanied by twists and cracks of shifting ice and startling static, crackles and scrapes from god knows where. The sonance is heavily anchored to its location, such that the audience is carried into the atmosphere of its world and whatever comfortable listening environment might have existed when disc met player falls away completely. Embodied in the sound is the green reflective flicker that haunts the musicians as they patiently wait for the ice to recede. The intensity of the recording breathes life into the ice — along with the feeling it will only encroach, not retract.

By Lisa Thatcher

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