BJ Nilsen & Stilluppsteypa
Vikinga Brennivin
CD HMS 004

by Jim Siegel
volume 8, issue 9

This is one of the best, most expertly crafted releases I have heard in quite some time. The artist formerly known as Hazard (Nilsen) and Stilluppsteypa (recently reduced to a duo of Sigtryggur B. Sigmarsson and Helgi Thorsson) combine sounds that evoke panoramic landscapes. Beginning this remarkably cohesive 56 minute set, "En Dare Kan Fraga Mer An Tre Visa Kan Svara" approaches like distant footsteps trying to walk straight on a windy path. Small rustling sounds eventually coalesce into thicker swarms over 12 minutes. This music is successful because it recalls a barren landscape, but still provides small, recognizable nuances to cling to. The quiet crackling sounds, bell tones and low moans which hover just below the long sustained tones of each piece add depth. At first Vikinga Brennivin seems minimalist in that there are no melodic or rhythmic elements. However, its appeal lies in uncovering the many layers of sound that make up this minimal facade. During "Heilir, thorn eirs hlyddu" there is a wall of static that is barely noticeable until it is suddenly removed from the mix at the six minute mark. The six minutes that follow this shift are then more interesting because they feel like undergrowth being pulled to the surface for inspection. On "En Dare..." and "Det Ar..." the trio pursue a decidedly more organic sound, while on "Heilir..." and "Vidunder" a digital patina is added to the low-end rumbling that provides contrast but doesn't sound too jarring. On "Vidunder" in particular, sharp high-end digital stabs echo from speaker to speaker and are the closest the trio get to achieving rhythmic tension. During "Det Ar..." a single low tone is given several minutes to meander before being joined by what sounds like smoke or gas being emitted from a pipe. The effect is akin to watching clouds pass slowly overhead through a skylight. The sounds that are used throughout the album sound as if they were carefully chosen. The group meets its objective of combining elements in ways that produce subtly changing, atmospheric works in which more is discovered upon each listen. They seem well-attuned to a common mission and the result sounds more seamless than simply being the sum of familiar parts. The gorgeous, unique silkscreened copper plate by Jim Haynes that serves as the sleeve for the first edition of 300 enhances the perception that this is a work which has been carefully and lovingly crafted out of a combination of passion and skill.