Krister Bergman – Order of the Thirty-Six (C30, Lighten Up Sounds)

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Krister Bergman is a Swedish noise artist who can also be heard in the power electronics project Demons That Drove. It’s fitting that Bergman’s primary project is in the PE genre, as much of that style carries over to Order of the Thirty-Six; likewise, Bergman remixes some of his own work on this cassette, and though PE characteristics are prevalent, there’s a focus on haunting, moody soundscapes that have less to do with aggression than they do with unease. This release from Lighten Up Sounds featured a dark red and print vellum J-card with a slightly ambiguous photo; it’s difficult to make out the details, but the vellum allows for light to seep through the translucent paper, casting an eerie ray through the photo that I quite like.

A pall is immediately cast with “Birth and Sight (Afterlife),” a track which for all intents and purposes seems to sum up the entirety of this cassette. Drips of water and distant gurgling transport us into deep dungeons or sewer systems, and a droning sustained note carries with it the notion of  dark labyrinths. Whispers emerge, coupled with a lengthy, continuous tone of feedback, and this proceeds for most of the track, which takes up roughly one-third to one-half of the first side. The result is fairly unsettling, especially thanks to the incomprehensible whispers, and the high-pitched feedback becomes a grating and uncomfortable sound.

Title track “Order of the Thirty-six” opens with melancholy guitar chords, only to quickly transform into a mass of swirling background static and intense feedback, and then flares up even more with screaming static and high-pitched scrapes. Background whispers again make their appearance, though this time they sound more malevolent (or perhaps it’s due in part to the aggression of the noise behind it). If the first cut was contained to a sewer labyrinth, this track is situated in a dark tunnel as a subway train hurtles along beside us.

Bergman doesn’t really capture the same rapture as the first two tracks, and side A close “And Only Orgasm Remains” is a short extension of the subway theme from the title track, only with less defining characteristics. On the flip side, “(You’re) Pretty Much Fuck Off” drags somewhat with its pulsing beat along with low-volume shudders of electronics and whispers. Thematically, much of the brutality of Bergman’s set has fell by the wayside, and the aforementioned track surges along placidly with occasional shining moments of chilling tones.

The faded bits of “And I Can See” return to the opening sound, picking up the intensity with convulsive static shudders and background vocals, although the repetition of themes and tones is a little too similar. The track is eerie because of its atonal sound, rhythmic and musical in a offsetting way, and if it wasn’t for the crisp static that permeates the track, the cut might make a nice chillwave song.

But, like a bookend, closer “Showtime” marks a fitting retreat from Order of the Thirty-Six, piling on layer upon layer of feedback and groaning electronics, with the signature growled whispers, for a cacophony that deconstructs nicely. It sounds as though everything’s going to hell, and that’s alright: it pairs well with “Birth and Sight (Afterlife)” and ends the cassette with a disturbing primal rage.

Order of the Thirty-Six showcases a good culmination of Bergman’s work, and it’s an awakening of new sounds by the reconstructing he’s done on his Demons That Drove work. The tape is bookended by really great tracks, but unfortunately the middle gets caught up in rather lackluster sounds, or ones that mimic some of the other sounds found on the lengthier tracks, and so the midpoint can drag. But Bergman’s solo work is still worth a listen, as his ability to deliver moody atmospherics and images of devilish underground dwellings is the perfect companion to a dark night.

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