September 30, 2022

the berg sans nipple – along the quai


(Johnny Mercer / Harold Arlen)

‘You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between’


i t’s three years since this Franco-American duo produced their début album, Form Of, an album of such extraordinary peerlessness that one jaded hack was moved at the time to wonder whether it wouldn’t be best for everyone if they simply retired after that and saved everyone the squirming anguish of calculating just how disappointing their second album was statistically certain to be. I (whoops) couldn’t imagine how they could possibly follow up such a totally satisfying piece of work. But they didn’t (retire) and they have (followed it up), and, gentle listener, I’m delighted if chastened to report that we can all now let go that purple-pent breath, let loose a lolloping whoop-halloo talloo-tallay, and let our jiggy holiday clogs go cut their clattering caper, for – hey – they did it (produced a follow-up that neither sucks nor blows but positively RATTLES) and I managed to say all that without using either of the two musical clichés I’ve declared total war on (the first about second albums that begins with soph… and doesn’t end with Ellis-Bextor, and the other that’s about lengthy anticipation, and rhymes with – and is – hyphenated).

here’s a suggestion – gratis – for any media Masters student out there scratching his or her head in search of a subject for their dissertation: research and compile a database of the support gigs an established band played at the beginning of their career and the bands which, once established, it in turn has invited to support, and see if you can extrapolate from that a taxonomy of musical influence. (I’m kinda serious – this would save us a lot of work here at Rhino Towers)

here in the UK, most people’s introduction to Berg Sans Nipple (which at that time lacked the ‘The’ – one for the trivia box) was as support to Do Make Say Think’s autumn tour of 2003. most shockingly, there was much muttering, at the time, that they had completely upstaged their employers, which is neither here nor there, now (particularly now, with DMST’s utterly wonderful new album – You, You’re A History in Rust– released – coincidentally, one assumes – practically at the same time), but the point is worth making – that in a world increasingly desperate for meaning, the only meaningful signs seem to occur through such fortuitous association-forks: The Berg Sans Nipple are as effectively defined by that early association with Do Make Say Think as are Sigur Rós by their millennium support gigs with Godspeed You! Black Emperor (pre-‘!’, incidentally) and Radiohead (and which of you lucky lucky mortals remembers either of those gigs, then? hands up. I hate you.)

you might, if you were so inclined, call The Berg’s sound a combination of fusion jazz, breaks, noise rock and voice-tinted electronica, but that kind of generic pitchforking only really gets you through but one of the multifarious side doors of perception – the reality of what’s on offer here is as eclectic as it is heartfelt, and, in the one way that uniquely connects the arts and science, is as resistant to description as any quantum effect. one of those effects, though, is unequivocal – The Berg, like their cheery Canadian buddies, come across as the veritable Gilbert Grapes of post-rock – intent only on beaming out the uncompromisingly positive stuff, however complex and odd that might sound, with nary a hint of a grumble to be heard.

like a roisterous, quintessentially subversive carnival (complete with steel drums that sound suspiciously like empty wine-bottles) this glorious album rolls relentlessly through the troubled banlieues of our minds, effecting the kind of magic-sprinkled momentary suspensions of time and space that in turn allow the seeding of – dare one say it – a kind of psychic liberation. as they said in ’68: “Soyez réalistes, demandez l’impossible” (“Be realistic, demand the impossible”). and under this odd couple’s beguiling spell, even such time-mildewed tokens of shattered dreams seem to find a new expression.