When, Upland, Bogus Blimp

By Ed Chamberlin

There are some record labels that become like old friends to you. You know the ones: they don't just spew out crap like someone who has mistaken the Senokot for the Imoduim, it's as though they appreciate your taste in music so well that every record they release is like a personal recommendation of quality to you and your greedy tastebuds. Somehow Norwegian labels have become like that for me: Rune Grmmafon and Smalltown Supersound have been releasing records for years now and not one of them has failed to hit the mark with me. Jester Records is another Norwegian label that fits that bill apparently. Their roster deliver spicy cut 'n' pastings, heavy beats that move your mind rather than your body and occasional interjections of live instruments, wacky samples and faint glimpses of pop to varying degrees, and from the evidence of these three records, with effortless brilliance as well. Bollocks! More stuff to shell out cash for unthinkingly.

In a world where the Future Sound of London had managed to continue their run of excellent mid-90s releases of Lifeforms, ISDN and Dead Cities rather than disappearing and re-appearing as crappy psychedelic act, there would be more stuff like Bogus Blimp, Upland and When around. but alas, no...

When has had the longest life in music, with Whenever marking his 10th album jubilee. And reason to celebrate it is – the record is wonderful. A one man project for Lars Pedersen, the music is the entire world. Drawing influences in from every conceivable angle, it is like an 3,000,000mph journey round the world, with its mixed cultural flavours, exotic beats, ethereal melodies and, on tracks like Ice Is Fire and Fire Is Water and E=mc², impeccable pop. To my ears the music is very Bollywood, and although that may be my ignorant ears not appreciating the different sounds here, there is a palpable sense that all this is new. Despite the diverse sounds, the real highlights occur on the tracks that are sheer bedlam. Some Apocalypses wins points for sounding exactly like its title (and might lose the same points for the same reasons), alternating between sick goth/noise mentalism to windy ambience without rhyme or reason, and creates funky rhythms out of dripping acid and molten lava feedback. The final track, Clay is Light and Lght is Matter, is the best representation of beautiful sunlight ever put to record with its laid-back vocals, 40 layers of acoustic guitars and exemplary gloopy noises. If ever there was a piece of music to soundtrack a heart-burstingly ecstatic kiss with someone you love, then this is it. Phew! Need to lie down a bit.

OK, blood's pumpin' again, just in time for Upland, who delivers the most striking set of the trioca with Obliterate. The most explicitly electronic record, right from the opening 00.000.00 the listener is subjected to a brutal attack of mechanical beats consisting of heavily distorted, erratic clicks and explosions, not unlike sounds we've heard from Autechre, Venetian Snares and mainly Einóma, Upland's closest sonic relative. However, Upland's convincing sleight of hand – inserting minor shifts in emphasis within the beats, exchanging spastically fast hundred-hand-slaps for stately rigid funk – has you inquisitively finding an internal logic to every loop. Two people will decipher the madness in entirely different ways, enjoying far separate interpretations of the rhythms. This isn't some academic exercise however; there remains throughout an intensity that never falls into pointlessly complex onanism. It's pretty rocking, quite frankly...

I don't give a damn whether Bogus Blimp recorded Rdtr as a soundtrack for a film, their album just doesn't stand up to the other two. It takes a full four tracks for anything to really make an impression, by which point many listeners may be bored. Which is a pity, because when the album picks up its pace on Leisure A Go-Go things start getting delicious. The gradual piling on of liquid strings, bizarre atmospherics and ever-so-slight hints of violence in the distance make you wonder if Björk forgot to turn up to the recording session. Then sure enough a sample of the unmistakable, churning synth riff from Army Of Me is compressed and recontexualised on Ministry Of Police Affairs, creating some kind of Nordic Da Funk.

Sometimes I am left slack-jawed in awe at the capacity for beauty and human creativity in the world. It's labels like Jester Records that keep my mouth open. Any of the three records would be an asset to your collection, but beware – Norwegian music is addictive!
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