It seems almost churlish to pick just two tapes from Sindre Bjerga’s ever-increasing release schedule, but this brace of cassettes act as something of a representative taster for those looking for an entry point into the prolific Norwegian noisemaker’s extensive discography. Of course, there’s plenty more where this came from once your appetite is whetted. You could also, for example, take a look at Misdirection, Bjerga’s 2013 outing for Sheepscar Light Industrial, or List Of Unrefined Sweeteners, his 2012 album of Dictaphone recordings made in collaboration with Posset, or even the rather enchanting four-way session with Claus Poulsen, Duncan Harrison and Paul Watson, Blind Dates, from … I dunno, a couple of years ago I guess? Alternatively, you could just trawl through his Discogs pages. Go on. Knock yourself out.
Anyway, let’s concentrate on the job in hand. Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.
Live At Pizlets, a recent issue in SND HLS’ series of live recordings, sees Berger in particularly warty form, seemingly submitting an Argos catalogue’s worth of domestic appliances and labour-saving devices to various degrees of unpleasant treatment. The sounds here are repressed and bristling with malevolence. At times during this performance Bjerga seems genuinely in need of a handful of Nurofen and a cup of peppermint tea – although consecutive listens suggest the hint of a twinkle in his gimlet eyeballs.
The set is sluggish at first, with disconnected scuffles and klunks submerged in the background mulch. It could be reminiscent of a deranged inventor stomping about in their shed, but the weird series of growls and gargles that punctuate this section hint that things are not as bumblingly innocent as they seem. A more cohesive tapestry slowly appears, with anonymous hisses slithering over buzzing radios. Occasionally, mangled tootles of melody fizz out from the gunk, to be joined by warbled vocal fragments, stretched and all bent out of shape in a fairly lysergic manner. It’s sinister and beautiful, until Berger rends things asunder with a distorted, ear-splitting whine that’s part Eno-Fripp Ebow drone and part Cale electric viola Armageddon. That screech finishes as abruptly as it starts, leaving a scorched earth landscape of queasy tape wonk and grunty blasts.
In contrast, Original Replica (Live), is a smoother affair, offering a couple of 11-minute tracks culled from live performances in Newcastle and South Korea. Metaphor Generator is the Newcastle side, dating from February 2014, combining gooey fuzz with plenty of voices snatched from the aether. A nice intervention towards the end is a rubbery, distorted outpouring of electronics and voices, a seance in a balloon factory, all wrapped up in proper broken modem style fizzes and blurts.
The South Korean side, Space Moon, is more minimal, and follows a similar-ish structure, all ambient static giving way to tape wrangling. Early sequences are strangely moving, thanks to the ghostly fragment of vocal melody drifting through the droney fluff. The middle section of tape carnage is even more deranged than on the Newcastle side, and seems to include a burst of Bjerga himself crooning some unidentifiable ballad, like some random human overhead on the street singing along to the radio while going about their daily business. It is disconcertingly intimate, like a CCTV camera lingering a bit too long on one face.
This piece also contains a lot less of Bjerga’s trademark kitchen sink abuse – a result of the baggage allowance on the flight to South Korea, perhaps? There’s a bit of grubby clanking towards the end, but it’s subsumed by a persistent, rather forlorn, feedback whine. Finally, this side plays out to what sounds like a grumbling metal bass line, spiralling around in good old teenager-locked-in-their-bedroom-grindcore style. Reign in, blud.