A Norwegian sextet formed near Oslo in 1996 has pursued pointillistic experimental rock collages saturated with electronic illustrations uncomfortably perched between smeared abstraction and documentary realism.
Over and above the dilution provided by the electro-dispersion of ubiquitous samples and glitches, the core instrumentalists typically engage in polynomial exercises ranging from weary pop tunes to black metallic backfill. Remarkably, it is the electro-sampled glue that has successfully welded the band’s sound. All their collections, each several years in the making, owe a lot to Ingar Hunskaar’s painstaking engineering work.
Although their output has been housed on a label famous for post-black metal scaremongering, Bogus Blimp are as far away from this hyperformalism as Spitzbergen is from Weddell Sea. Some of their electro-phantasmagorias stir a nostalgic vein, others finesse the disturbing side of 1980s’ geri reig, yet others stalk perilously close to futuristic ciné noir. This story is not yet over.
Against a toy motor burr, a very fast guitar tremolo intermingles with a seemingly prelapsarian, slightly out-of-tune piano recording. As a mythomaniac politician delivers a public harangue, the piano flips up a carnavalesque groove. In a grotesque twist, Hilmar Larsen crotchets on his mandolin with wicked abandon. The initially clownish atmosphere undergoes grotesque, even macabresque mutations. As the pulpit-thumping tirade harps on, a Zamla-style piano and guitar duo delights everyone, parading to Bjørn Larsen’s phatic signals of glitchy static.
Sweets & Love
It is unclear if Kyrre Bjørkås’s rhythmic thud adumbrates a heartbeat or a stomping leviathan. Christian Mona’s half-whispered, hoarse voice interbreeds with organ, piano and drums. Soon, the pregnant, vampiric menace explodes. Mona’s vocal performance is funereal, unnerving and pathological. Absence of fuzz guitar will forever alienate black metal fanatics, but when the theatrical, life-beaten protagonist spews the “Sugar Daddy” story, his anguish chills the spine. The band reaches the climax of agonizing, creepy drama and then, unnecessarily, rehashes the entire stanza. By then, Mona turns into a self-parodic crooner.
In windswept desolation, cymbals rummage through mellow guitar notes. Hushed lyrics of this “lullaby” intensify along sustained ‘mellotron’ samples drawn out by Aslak Larsen, evoking latter-day Cassiber’s phantasms. “The countdown has begun”, we hear, underlain by a leaden rumble milled by Kyrre Bjørkås’s bass. Some guitar chords thrown in major scale brighten the entrained mood. The “wind” sample turns synthetic and flies away, reduced to inconsequential hiss.
A ‘cello’ riff and black metal vocal impersonate the ‘inhale-exhale’ sloganeering. When the expected upwelling eventually comes, the riff becomes felsic, metallic, yearning for a missing fuzz component and comforted by the grueling, morbid, pathogenic vocal. Many listeners of experimental music find the ‘black metal’ advances expletive, yet admittedly the cross-pollination of adventurous music and cadaveric sonic horror has taken root on both sides of the Atlantic. While this misalliance has not quite yet given birth to any self-sustaining musical genre, the bastardly sub-genres have been aplenty – from Stolen Babies to Unexpect, from Dead Raven Choir to Special Defects, from Equimanthorn to Abruptum. Interestingly enough, this debut was Bogus Blimp’s first and last flirtation with this questionable approach. The vocal treatment on the later records preferably drew from public speech mockery to arch-drama familiar from STPO’s neo-futuristic ventures. And “In/Exhale”? The band’s endeavors to sustain the atmosphere with harmonium-like moan and sputter lead us squeaky Visigothic caravan axles – a theme atavistically familiar and previously exploited on such diverse recordings as Lindsay Cooper’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” and Boris Kovac’s “Ritual Nova”. Finally, the merry-go-round returns, stuck in eternal rotation.
Right after a short intonation on tubas, an entire symphony orchestra is tuning in. In a lovely moment, the strings impersonate Felliniesque ‘Prova d’orchestra’. But whispers distract again. This soon becomes a hymnal song, full of strained vocals, zooming on a swirling Hammond organ, but with a forged sensitivity of 1990s neo-pop. Sudden key signature changes relativize these data and uneven meters complicate things further. Henceforth, the track develops on several plans. There is the mock-vampiric layer (Mona’s vocal), a nostalgic one (Larsen’s organ), an experimental one (Aslak Larsen’s samples), a rock one (Roger Jacobsen’s ever-shifting meters). A sampled coda brings back the looped electro-haze and a posh accent from the British Isles about some futuristic science program.
Bass-based figure, bass drum and ungainly lip smacking dominate the faltering organ and pliant hi-hats. The placing of the bass growl is emotionally draining, and when it eventually explodes, it does so predictably. The dusky, circus theme is also inconsequential, eventually lost in the samples collected from old English lessons on 33rpm vinyl: “you’re are listening to the record. When I speak slowly you understand me”, reveals the narrator. Spooky stuff.
AM radio noise, static, Simen Grankel on the saw, distant rhythms, organ pop tunes, much distortion, or are these Soviets trying to buzz Radio Luxembourg out of the range? The struggling pop tune survives, but barely.
Another manège moment, a carnival waltz, led by an apathetic, triste harmonium and a solemn, inconsolable melodica. In between, the disconsolate voice whispers uncannily: “I don’t really know you”. Subtextual cymbals finally give way to a more prominent rhythm, before it’s too late.
BOGUS BLIMP: “Men-Mic” (1997-1998)
BOGUS BLIMP: “Cords. Wires” (1999-2000)
BOGUS BLIMP: “Rdtr” (2000-2004)
As stated above, the “metal” moments still present on the first recording did not resurface on the next two. Between the follow-ups, “Rdtr” is probably the mellower of the two.