Berg Sans Nipple - Form Of... (Prohibited Records)
It's become a bit of a fetish, this 'influenced by' thing. As if it actually informed the listening experience by a scintilla to be reminded that The Memory of Brianna's Baguette was influenced by One Day in Denton who in turn were influenced by Crosby Bling who .... and so on back to the original anonymous nose-flautist of Olduvai Gorge. Well - it helps, I suppose, a little bit, in the sense that understanding how a spider spins its web helps contribute to the sense of awe at the construction of something that, if you or I tried, would end up one diabolical mess. Like trying to type with gloves on.
But, of course, it's fun.
So if, for instance, I were to say that, between them, Shane Aspegren and Lori Sean Berg, the presiding geniuses of Berg Sans Nipple, have something in them of Stevie Wonder, Charles Mingus, Wu Tang Clan, Oval, Tortoise, and Fourtet, would that help at all?
Didn't think so.
What is important, I think, is to recognise that both of them have emerged from a solid background as working drummers - Aspegren with Lullaby For the Working Class, amongst others, Berg with Purr, inter alia - and that, in support of a magical melodic momentum that feeds the aural appetite like a dish of profiteroles - more! always and forever more! - is a set of astonishingly rich and varied beats, both live and electronic, employing only the crême de la crême of the rhythmic repertoire, from steel drums to flamenco palmas. And Aspegren's 1922 drumkit fed through his broken Traynor - used oh-so-sparingly (sure sign of mastery) - makes for one mother of a foot-tapper. So, when they do go for the full-on thrash - as in Croon, for instance - they can make it rock like a two-man distillation of Stomp and the Kodo drummers. *phew*
The Berg is a Franco-American partnership - Aspegren's from Lincoln, Nebraska, Berg's from Paris - although I'm wary of reading any clichés about transatlantic hybridity into that. They do kind of play with it, though, in a way that makes you smile a bit as you're listening. Track four, for instance - Blvd. des Souvenirs - is split into two parts - the first a rambling accordion/melodica chanson, a veritable promenade amongst the boîtes of the rive gauche, set against some très maintenant blips and beats, modulating into an upbeat segué that moves way, way beyond the Seine, crunching a huge sweet mix of counterpointing trumpets and other, utterly transcendent smoking mirror sounds against a Beaufort nine storm whipped up from that eighty-year-old drumkit, as if summoning from it all the embedded sound and fury and blood, sweat and tears of the twentieth fucking century, and feeding on top of that (more! always and forever more!) an intermittent and supremely unnerving metal-on-metal ring - like a metal bar just touching a gargantuan, superbly dangerous, rapidly revolving saw-blade. (And no, it doesn't matter one iota that Plaid and Ez3kiel use a similar sound in Abla Eedio and Kika - simultaneous emergence is just one of those creative mysteries that seem to make the world go round - no more explicable than morphic resonance in flocks of birds or schools of fish.) Amazing experience. Like walking through a door marked 'Sortie' into the moment of the KT boundary event impact.
Plus they've acquired the coolest set of collaborators this side of tuesday: Ohad Benchetrit and Justin Small of that rising star of the Constellation label, Do Make Say Think, on guitar and keyboard; Maria Taylor (whose voice, with her group Azure Ray, supplied the only consolatory moment in Moby's miserable 18) on the exquisite Dilate in Rhythm - which opens with The Snowman arm in arm with The Gasman at a Warp Records soireé and closes with, well, total dilation; and the Whitbread-nominated novelist Luke Sutherland (of Long Fin Killie and Bows as well as being a long-time Mogwai violinist) reading his own haunting, enigmatic, Little-Prince-Loses-It story as foreground to the first part of the stupendous finale - We Try to Resist But We Are Full Of Merde.
As debut albums go, Form Of... is about as good as it gets. Part of me hopes - seriously - that they never make another. If Berg Sans Nipple were to decide to split now, I guarantee that within a year this album would become the kind of cult classic that usually only emerges out of tragedy - like Grace. On the other hand, you can never get enough of profiteroles, can you?
20th December 2003