Like Driving by Streifenjunko

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Streifenjunko | Like Driving
Sofa (LP/CD)

The Norwegian duo Streifenjunko of Espen Reinertsen (saxophone) and Eivind Lønning (trumpet) have been working together since 2005 and are about to release (11/2) their latest effort, Like Driving.  The album is made up of three full-size tracks, starting with Everything We Touch is Electric. They use their traditional brass instruments to fuse together an abstract electronic atmosphere, quite minimal at the start. What sounds like parsed chamber organ, but fairly robotic, plays on various under/overtones as it morphs into something that resembles a pensive, recycled Nordic folk music, once removed. Its pauses and small effects bear a heavy load, and they offer plenty of curious, playful sounds to contemplate. One thing is for sure, this is fueled by breath, and lots of it.

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It’s difficult to imagine that this is only their third album since 2009 (all on Sofa), given its sophisticated flair, it has a lot in common with the practice of John Cage and like thinkers in the realm of shaping prepared instruments. The contortions are subtle, and at times appear like tiny lasers delivering a soundtrack for a b-movie. It makes for an electric sound that is further emphasized by the dalliance of candy colors of the striking cover art by video artist Kjell Bjørgeengen. As the duo moves on to the second track Astronaut Peace we are engaged by a mysterious wave/signal that broadens over time, growing in range and volume.

I’ve never been to a hypnotist, but I’d imagine hearing something like this internally as I was going under. The circular breathing of the two players must be commended as they stretch out their notes far and wide. There’s also something uniquely embedded here, something mystical and a bit subliminal. Is this a mirage? Though its quite minimal in output, the effect is most encompassing in terms of its hollow shapelessness, floating in open space. In the end it sounds like they are playing Asteroids or some other primitive video game.

Streifenjunko

The concluding track is the title piece, Like Driving. It follows the same recipe as the earlier works, though it shifts in chord structure and feels as though they are tampering with the meta aspects of their own signature sound. There are sudden drops in pressure like slamming on breaks, or perhaps its where the proverbial tape loop is spliced, though I don’t believe they are engaging with anything aside from their instruments – and the after effects of processing.

As the longest work here, they have room to spread out, to re-work various passages with washes of static and quick cuts. It makes for a serious musique concrète in the most non-traditional sense. That is, they blend smooth rhythms and weary melodies, elongate notes and otherwise allow themselves to breach the surface of their work. This way they experiment not only with the compositional process, but with their musical timing. At times queasy, others breezy. It’s refreshing to listen to such a layered montage technique that risks everything in the quest to bring the new.

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