BJ Nilsen & Stilluppsteypa/Alan Courtis
Golden Circle Afternoon
Editions Mego, 2014
Review by Kent Manthie
Here we have this new album, Golden Circle Afternoon, recorded by the trio of BJ Nilsen, Stilluppsteypa and Alan Courtis. The theme of Golden Circle Afternoon is one of traveling. Think of the two 23 minute-or-so songs on the album as a kind of travelogue for a journey, both mentally and physically.
At the beginning, when you start off listening to the first cut, “Aurora Australis”, you feel relaxed and prepared to go on a mind-challenging journey. The first part is made up of so much slurred, processed voices and sounds that drone on and on, with a smattering of clicking and clattering. Soon, though you are shuttled through the straits of Owsley (so to speak) and in a while the trek takes a left turn and ends up being whirled through a rabbit hole of consciousness.
What comes next is an arrhythmic procession of audio cacophony that manages to still retain a semblance of the familiar. Other than that, don’t expect any formulae or derivative sounding ripoffs. There are no templates for this and, getting back to the “journey” metaphor: you soon run out of roadsigns and don’t try to find a map to navigate through this place.
Nilsen, Stilluppsteypa and Courtis are all musical veterans who’ve been on many drone expeditions. They serve as experienced guides and utilize all their knowledge as masters of the studio to create a unique soundscape. The two songs that make up this, roughly 45 minute album, go together seamlessly. If this were on vinyl, then “Aurora Australis” would make up Side A and “Fish is God” would be Side B. But, being that it is a digital piece, in a time where even CDs aren’t that necessary anymore, with the ubiquity of digital ways to store music, such as the one I’ve used for a long time now, Windows Media Player. Well, I do have a copy of Real Player, for some odd jobs that I do, when piecing together music I download from trustworthy sites. But, as far as long-term, excellent quality music storage, I don’t trust my digital music library to anything but Windows Media Player (WMP).
At times, while grooving through the drone/ambient/noise effects of Golden Circle Afternoon, one can really get enveloped in the warm glow of the atmospheric textures that make up this album. BTW, it is completely instrumental, but you probably already figured that out for yourself. Yes, this is a lovely tapestry of woven sound-images, which I know, sounds like a psychedelic, lysergic concept, yet that is exactly what is being driven in to you. By the time you get finished with the second half of the album, “Fish is God”, you should be able to see the music and hear the colors it connotes.
As for Alan Courtis, he has a working gig with Aaron Moore, who, recently put out KPBS, earlier this year. KPBS is also comprised of two long-form tunes: “King Pancre” and “Punk Butter”. That album is a little similar: it has a drawn out drone to it, but it has a noisy-art-form to it that evokes some avant-garde jazz; I’m thinking of Sun-Ra, here, probably the most far-out cat that graced a number of seriously tweaked out albums. More than that, though, Courtis and Moore do their own thing and take things a few steps further, with jack-hammer samples, machine-gun rat-a-tats and what sounds like heavy footsteps: and that’s only in the first 7 minutes of “King Pancre”
The interesting thing about this trio, that is, Nilsen, Stilluppsteypa and Courtis, is that they each bring their own unique styles and influences to Golden Circle Afternoon, allowing each to add their own thing to the project and bringing forth an afternoon that is indeed Golden. For more information or to see other Editions Mego artists and albums, check out http://www.editionsmego.com. -KM.