Review: Sindre Bjerga – Jan Ken Pon (Kirigirisu Recordings, Nov 9)

I recently wrote about Ami Yoshida’s fantastic Tiger Thrush, a personal favorite of mine, for another site, focusing on the ability of mouth and vocal sounds to elicit visceral discomfort in a listener. Sindre Bjerga works with similar techniques at the start of Jan Ken Pon, an unedited live recording from his 2016 tour, cutting and mangling abstract vocalizations with hiss-marred dictaphone manipulation, creating muddy soundscapes of moans and gurgles. As I view it, the portable tape recorder is such an effective tool for producing collage-based music such as this because its low fidelity introduces a distinct element of intimacy, that can either enhance the comforting nature of familiar sounds or the formidable horror of unfamiliar ones. Bjerga plays with both throughout the half-hour performance, with the same syrupy tape distortion dripping from high-pitched delay pedal feedback, object improvisation, and field recordings. The homespun cacophony swells with movement and tension through the piece, culminating in a stripped down finale with only some murky loops, clatters, and ascending feedback that sounds like a tea kettle about to lose its lid. My only complaint is that it ends rather abruptly; but then again, I feel like any ending to these uneasy sounds would feel unceremonious.