BJ Nilsen & Stilluppsteypa
Vikinga Brennivin
CD HMS 004


The Wire
by Keith Moliné
Issue 258, August 2005

Bremmin is a famously potent Icelandic potato and cumin liquor that comes in forbidding black bottles. Whether laptop duo Stilluppsteypa record under the influence of their national tipple is not made clear, but the evidence of this suitably blurred and bleary collaboration with sound artist Nilsen, it certainly sounds like they do. Nilsen's Hazard release on the Ash International and Touch labels feature motionless, brooding stretches of treated environmental recordings. What his collaborators bring to this project is a sense of unpredictability, even madness. But it's a slow, sleepy kind of madness, as if the music is under the influence of the paralysis-inducing drug curare rather than the firewater suggested by the album title. Despite the strung out, claustrophobic feel, however, Vikinga Brennivin is a fascinating and strangely beautiful record -- addictive, one might say. Various stretches might be said to evoke the relentless throb and tinnitus whistle of a serious hangover, but mostly it's an album of meticulously crafted dronescapes and seeping atmospheres. Layers constantly appear, shift and disappear, to occasionally hallucinogenic effect, as on the richly involving final 20 minute drift piece, but more often suggesting psychic disquiet and disconnection. The second track is a steely but miasmatic inferno of deep, rumbling frequencies and submerged, agitated voices, a sonic black hole seeming to suck in all but the most unsettling noise. It's powerful stuff -- in fact, any recovering alcoholics tempted by a drop of the hard stuff should consider buying Vikinga Brennivin for use as aversion therapy.