It is clear from the moment one lays eyes on the colourful delirium of BJ Nilsen & Stilluppsteypa’s new album cover that Big Shadow Montana is likely anything but a fair-weathered, easily digestible outing. Having little to no knowledge or interest in these artists wouldn’t stop a grizzled hippy from commencing the long stare at what truly is some absurdly busy album art. I can’t help but imagine Helgi Thorsson and Sigtryggur Berg Sigmarsson (Stilluppsteypa) and Nilsen welcoming these types of scenarios with open arms, while relishing in the fact that a tiny sliver of their audience might compare Big Shadow Montana to an Alejandro Jodorowsky soundtrack.
Intentions aside, along with obvious parallels between any number of Sun City Girls’ releases – not to mention a barrage of Italian horror soundtracks – this trio has managed to create an album that’s as pleasing to the rightly tuned ear as it is inimitable. While many collaborations in the experimental scene only last a few albums, Big Shadow Montana marks this trio’s seventh, the kind of longevity that characterizes a group of artists who clearly possess an ineradicable rapport with one another.
Though one never quite knows what to expect from these three, there seems to always exist a slight sense of irony embedded in the synthesis and darkly lit psychedelia of their albums: choral chanting, whimsical yet disturbing carnival melodies, and sunken snippets of muzak, all cautioning not to take this stuff too seriously. The carnival melodies in particular come into play on both sides here, there mere existence presenting the album as a slight mockery of, if not only itself, then of soundtracks as a genre – the movie is almost always beside the point.
Ultimately, the trio’s playfulness works to their advantage, especially in the midsection of the B-side, where an eerie melody makes its way into the fore. The melody soon fades, replaced by a familiar cloud of drones derived from analog synths and God knows what else, and it’s not like the three make a point of telling us. I mean really, what would be the fun in that?