BJ Nilsen & Stilluppsteypa ~ Góða Nótt

Snowed in at their studio in Iceland, BJ Nilsen and Stilluppsteypa found themselves trapped with no food or water in the icy depths of Winter. Snowbound, the studio became an icy enclosure, pulling white shutters over white windows and reflecting nothing but the blank. No way out.

If ever a recording embraced the inevitable decreasing temperatures, Góða Nótt would be the cold contender and ultimate champion. Recorded during their confinement, we first hear the group of musicians talking, setting off with no forewarning or premonition of events to follow; a car engine coughs to life, preparing for the voyage to the studio, yet this only sets up a false sense of security. Clouded in an instant, an Icelandic drone shrouds the surroundings with sheets of snow. Unsure as to what day it was, or even for how long they’d slept, days became nights and nights became days.

Music helped to temporarily relieve the creeping sense of unease and anxiety. As a group, the artists took advantage of a claustrophobic environment, and turned it into an artistic opportunity when cabin fever could so easily have taken hold. It shouldn’t surprise us that this uneasy feeling has manifested itself straight from the studio and entered the music effortlessly; a restless atmosphere covers the two pieces like the thickest coating of snow. Take deep breaths.

The atmospherics are all-natural, and the realism inside the recording creates a highly effective sense of place. It feels like we’re cocooned within the studio, shielded from the outside world, and this authenticity proves pivotal to the music’s success. I’d go one step further and say that the ambience is so cold it’s enough to send shivers running down the neck, like a lost soundtrack to ‘The Thing’. Perspective seems to shift like double vision. It’s isolationist ambient at its finest, and one that’s best served chilled.

Concealed in the white, a chilling presence billows around outside. The whoosh of the wind almost mocks an inability to escape in the coldest of taunts. The atmosphere drips into the very essence of the music, and in turn the music absorbs the atmosphere. No matter where this is listened to, it still conjures feelings of dread, alienation, fear and isolation. There are more entities in this studio than there are people, the majority being uncaged thoughts let loose in the imagination.

The ambience falls well below zero, but it’s occasionally dissipated by voices and communication; always a necessity to keep the wolves at bay. Veiled across the music, the air flow is a wispy draught that rattles against the studio and becomes the opener’s central focus. Escape is only on the other side of the door, but it remains unreachable. Although ambient, the music could never act as a sedative; it’s alive and follows a deep trail along disappearing tracks. The only way forward is carefully, blinded by the white.

The second piece unfolds much like the opener, until it snaps out of a hypnotised state with a sudden shift. This turbulent change in sound makes the music even more of an intense experience. Closing loops melt away the snow with a smoother drone, although the atmosphere remains cagey.

Hyperventilation is always a possibility as the record runs its course, but eventually the snow disappears and the cold air of the outside is available once again. The ending drone thins outs, sucking deep breaths into the lungs and exhaling the experience out of the mind. Foggy vapours disappear into the air and release the daytime nightmare in dissolving clouds. Finally, fresh air. Finally, escape. (James Catchpole)

Available here

One comment

  1. Pingback: ACL 2012: The Year’s Best Winter Music « a closer listen

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