2012 / 2015





"For the love of every spiritual entity, please don’t let the formation B/B/S be a one-time affair!" Huzzah, this is the first sentence I have written about the band’s debut Brick Mask (Miasmah, 2013), and now it makes me look more than a tad foolish, as Brick Mask wasn’t even the first musical adventure to begin with. Turns out that in 2012, the first Berlin-based meeting of Italian percussionist Andrea Belfi, Canadian bass guitarist and classically trained flutist Aidan Baker as well as Norse Dark Ambient guitarist-synthesist Erik K. Skodvin aka Svarte Greiner leads to a fruitful collaboration supercharged with thunderous hi-hats, grinding guitars and equally essential segues of tranquility and relative quiescence before voluptuous vicissitudes take over yet again. NK012 is the name of said meeting and sees its first public release on Mexico City’s sophisticated Umor Rex Records in tape shape. It can be streamed and purchased at Bandcamp as usual. NK012 sounds forceful and fragile whenever the time is right for the respective restraint or full throttle. Recorded with anything but a mere stereo microphone in the room, this is not a limiting device, neither in an audiophile nor absorptive way, authoritatively catching all of the trio’s nutritious riots, dilated dichotomies and occasionally susurrant helixes. Five tracks of that session are transferred to tape, and whether they make up the whole session or are considered selected cuts by the band is anyone’s guess. Maybe the future will shed light on this intricate subject as well, but for now, let’s enter the dark dungeons of NK012.


Depth via flatness. Daniel Castrejón designs all of Umor Rex's releases.


NK012A01 is it: the first ever mélange of retrosternal percolations that B/B/S bring to light in order to drag them into the darkness. The opener is a particularly mephitic affair and keeps its Ambient core even when Andrea Belfi’s staggering drum bursts protrude through the thermal stokehold granuloma. Aidan Baker’s portentously Oriental flute merges with Erik Skodvin’s annealed guitar chords of isolated perdition all the while simmering crimson drones scythe through the array of surprisingly warm layers. Alkaloidal and pressurized, this cauldron eventually leads to NK012A02, a drum-infested anhydride of chlorotic wideness. The actual aorta, however, comprises of screeching guitar afterglows whose argentine lucency becomes entangled with the cajoling oomph of a bass guitar. Whereas the opener serrates melodies that are open to scrutiny, the second encounter is more of a progressive hydrazine, encapsulating the improvisational – and back then uncertain – nature of the project that became B/B/S. NK012A02 ultimately injects cosmic albumin in the shape of coruscating cymbals into another thermally soulful vault of illiberal immediacy. The third and final track of side A, expectedly coined NK012A03, ventures into the acidic high voltage realm, spawning demonic energy, cauterizing parochial attitudes. Its prelude is made of viscoelastic guitar punctilios, tawny potassium drones and glistening abrasions, with the track’s second half featuring cajoling dark matter plasticizers that peacefully meander through the demonic ether.


So far, side A has shown – at least – three stylistic cornerstones of the band’s improvised setup: the initial, comparatively mellow Ambient core, followed by a sizzling drum-based pressure chamber, with a machinist’s pool of droning faux-engines rounding the aural photometry off. This trifold curvature does not translate into an isolated description of each track but rather functions as the distinctive palette of moods, realizations and transformations that take place throughout the tape. Side B therefore sports both the virulent and violent aftermath of B/B/S’s aggrandized convulsion. NKS012B01 clocks in at eight minutes and places clandestinely glaucous fog banks in close proximity to a cannelure of well-groomed drums and synthetic stardust scintillae, but make no mistake: the enigmatic circumambience, while uneasily resting, finds itself entrapped behind a parallax layer of exiguity. Lifting off around the three-minute mark, Belfi turns his drums up a notch and guides the experiencing subject to a rising multiplex of bone-crushing eruptions, with Baker’s and Skodvin’s medulla-emptying guitar expectorations already firmly in place. An alluvial stampede of a track! The finale NK012B02 offers the heterodox extirpation of every belligerent molecule; well, at the beginning, that is. The trio takes its time to erect a cavernous ambiance of emaciated lavabo riffs and a desiccated synth-based sustain. It is only after three and a half minutes that glacial hi-hat prongs irrupt the crepuscular doldrums. Soon enough, the effulgent plateau turns into polylayered volution. Sizzling staccato streams and cavalcades of cataracts float into the nascent nullspace: exogenous life. Your life outside the tape's realm.


One might be scared of the dynamics that the live setting brings with it, but NK012 is obviously the aesthetic success it deserves to be, or else there wouldn’t be the follow-up Brick Mask which I thought to be the inaugural advent of B/B/S. Now it turns out that the morphogenesis of the band’s cotyledon is planted in this here first session. The release of NK012 is ultimately based – and dependent – on trust. The band didn’t plan to release this work in the first place, otherwise parts of it would have appeared sooner rather than later. The artists certainly know of the spectral lure though, and make this eclectic trip available to be devoured and engulfed. Lots of contraventions and counterpoints make up the existence of this aural undulation. The three-to-four-note melody of the opener is as phylogenetic a source for the aesthetics of B/B/S as the omnipresent oxymoron of bustling remoteness that traverses through the premonition invoked by each composition. Complex and incidental guitar licks reciprocate between elbowing drums and their various incandescent resonations. The synths are sparsely used, flickering close to the periphery of each track, slowly gliding into the guitar’s peritoneum. Another highlight is Aidan Baker’s use of the flute, and I really mean it: only in the first track is it evocatively recognizable, emitting voodoo-esque superstructures of portent. I’m sure it is used again in the session, with ghostly traces of it probably touching all of the tracks. The camouflage tactics concerning the flute and the synth show B/B/S’s tendency right from the get-go, albeit in retrospect: hiding the characteristic textures in a reticulation that is as dense as it is prone to interstices of nonentity. And if these things can be hidden, delight and languour ought to be as well.


Further listening and reading:


Ambient Review 412: B/B/S – NK012 (2015). Originally published on Jan. 28, 2015 at AmbientExotica.com.