BJ Nilsen & Stilluppsteypa - Big Shadow Montana LP
Label: Helen Scarsdale Agency
Collaborations in the experimental scene come and go, so it's so great to see one that has some longevity. This is album number seven from BJ Nilsen and Stilluppsteypa, and the fourth released by the discerning Helen Scarsdale Agency label. Since this trio (Benny plus Sigtryggur and Helgi of Stilluppsteypa) unleashed their drunken drone trilogy through the aforementioned Agency, they've been venturing into all sorts of delirious bouts of murky psychedelic collages and imagined soundtracks. There were the weird ruminations upon a found cassette, turned into a mondo filmscore on Man From Deep River; and then the sci-fi opus of synth meanderings found on Space Finale. Now what may be the best to emerge since that earlier alcohol-inspired trilogy is this, the mercurial and hauntological album Big Shadow Montana. Two long-form pieces make up the album, with the A side standing as a hallucinatory foreshadowing of what is to come on the flip. Here, ghostly drones broadcast directly out of the haunted ballroom from The Shining, flickering with half-received transmissions, bumps in the night, and any number of other worldly sounds. Bits of structure emerge in this slow-motion churning of drone, shadow, and filigree coming across somewhere between the fucked up collages that seem to bring all of the Teenage Filmstars records to a close and the subterranean drone-rock sensibility of German Oak. When the record flips, a cosmic stream of vintage synths slump toward oblivion paralleling what has been done by Emeralds and Oneohtrix Point Never (both of whom have released work alongside this trio on Editions Mego), but before this can venture any further down the rabbit hole of Schnitzler and Schulze references, Nilsen & Stilluppsteypa slip into a faux-exotica guise with cheap Casiotone melodies swaying to and fro through old Les Baxter and Martin Denny records. It's a signature move for Stilluppsteypa, if anyone remembers how they mustered a similar strategy on The Best Possible Yet back in 1997. But the maudlin organ harmonies and percolating tone-bloop oscillations are much more confident here, emerging perfectly out of the drone fog like those organ-led numbers on that Deathprod boxset, only to slip into a twin engine thrum of inner-space expansion. In listening back to the second side of the album, it's clear that the first is a lengthy dub of the second, recast and recontextualized as a percussive ghost. Totally captivating through and through.