[20 April 2011]
It’s not normal for an act comprised of only two people to work in such cellular, minimalist musical constraints. Usually, the tendency is to focus on instrumental intricacy and telepathic musicianship (Lightning Bolt), or just on creating an impressive noise for two people (the White Stripes). Where the Berg Sans Nipple differ is in their seeming favour for bare sounds and effective rhythmic cells with occasional flourishes rather than anything more complex. To their credit, it works reasonably well. The compositions on this LP are governed by order, but they, crucially, possess innate groove and the good sense to make things entertaining rather than merely clever.
Working such a long way away from each other (Nebraska native Shane Aspergen’s distance from Parisian Lori Sean Berg was a major factor in the five-year gap between this and the duo’s previous LP) has naturally borne an excitable sound that can’t wait to mingle its constituent parts. Aspergen’s drums preside over the grooves and, for the most part, are irresistibly feathery and labyrinthine, the rattling fills of “All People” proving a particular pleasure. Excitable it may be, but there are experiments here that very clearly have been long-considered and pored over before they were committed to tape. The opening “Change the Shape” is peppy thanks to its traded vocal split sentences, but TBSN have obviously slaved to position every jangle of electronics and harmonise every bassline.
Attention to detail is one thing as is, as we’ve established, being slave to making music listenable and fun, but when we hear Aspergen sing “Reconstruct by knocking down” on the title track, it’s clear what the thought process was. In fact, the title itself tells you just as much about how they composed the works. Stripping down to components numbering only rhythm, ostinati, and vocals among them makes for the most level playing field – ideal for letting those ingenious ideas carefully frolick into view. In fact, with the base level of cellular interaction established, it’s when the frolicking occurs that Build With Erosion is most fun.
Collaboration in this fragmentary manner simply wouldn’t serve the best interests of many duos, most being reliant on the constancy of interaction to get the best out of one another. The Berg Sans Nipple’s system of musical exchange seems particular to them in that they’ve thrived on time apart. Reichian inner structures rattle timelessly through the middle of each tune, but it’s the amendments to the formula that are the most rewarding. Surely the excitement of getting together and recording after periods of isolation from one another must have resulted in these sparks of creativity, forming the kind of spontaneity that perhaps a more collaborative duo couldn’t.
Closing with the bucolic, reflective “Pink Ray Sugar” provides a (suitably) sweet note to finish the record on—one that makes a virtue of its sweetness rather than apologises for it. What preceded it may have been at times predisposed to analysis rather than outright enjoyment, but there are countless examples of the duo relaxing and luxuriating in their sound. Obviously, the studious approach and the geographical distance between them goes a long way to explaining that, but the overriding impression is that Build With Erosion was wonderfully enjoyable for them to make.