Ten years ago, Espen J. Jörgensen and Rupert Lally released Stillium Partita, heralding the start of a vital distance collaboration which produced a rich seam of albums and projects together while never once managing to go over old ground or repeat themselves.
According to Lally, I was one of the first to pick up on the album, reviewing the release for my Documentary Evidence blog. To commemorate its anniversary, the duo recorded a video about the release, its creation and how they feel about it now. The video also features my thoughts on the album, a decade on. An edited version of my original review appears below the video.
Espen J. Jörgensen, a Norwegian documentary film-maker, fan of circuit-bent instruments and one-time collaborator with Simon Fisher Turner on the Soundescapes album that Mute released in 2011, has launched his own label – No Studio – and crafted an album with Swiss-based ex pat Rupert Lally entitled Stillium Partita. Consisting of seventeen electronic tracks that manage to blend together chilled-out Global Communication-style synthetic ambience with some more harsh, gritty sound sources, Stillium Partita arrived quietly and with little notice via Bandcamp in July 2012.
Like Soundescapes, which arose from a chance encounter, what would become Stillium Partita started with a simple question. “Rupert asked Simon and I if he could do a remix of the track ‘Soundescaped’,” explains Jörgensen by email. “I didn’t know Rupert then, but he had done a remix of something which was included in Simon’s score for The Great White Silence. I thought the ‘Soundescaped’ remix was okay, but I thought Rupert’s personal stuff was way better, and I thought, though I was burnt out and all, that his stuff could be interesting with my stuff.”
At this point, Jörgensen wasn’t sure whether to make any more music. “I was tired and I wanted to quit,” he continues. “But I thought, ‘What the heck. Let’s ask him if he wants to do something,’ and Rupert said yes. It was as simple as that.” As with Soundescapes, tracks for Stillium Partita would start with Jörgensen compiling sounds which would then be sent to Lally to add his own ideas.
Tracks like opener ‘Åpen Sår’, ‘Cobalt Night’ or the majestic ‘Gefangen’ have a sort of glitchy, electronic soundtrack quality to them, full of complex layers, burbling synth patterns, delicate melodies and a rich array of almost industrial noise effects; ‘Skallax’ goes further into the noise oeuvre with a central ‘riff’ that could have come from either a transmitting modem or a ZX Spectrum computer game tape loading up. Despite such ear-challenging interludes, Jörgensen confirms that, unlike on Soundscapes where his sounds were processed to the point of unrecognisability by Simon Fisher Turner, the intention on his collaboration with Lally was to allow for more straightforward electronic sources to be incorporated.
“It doesn’t feel like a bad follow up to Soundescapes, as it’s a very different thing,” explains Jörgensen on the different approach taken through working with Lally. “When I record stuff, I’m kind of finished with it. I send it out, and insist that my collaborator only use the best bits, or the bits they connect with. From there I think it’s best that they do whatever they want to do in that moment; it’s best that they give a 100% on their front, and if it means that they only use a fragment from my recordings, then fine, that’s the best decision. So Rupert’s used my stuff as either background ‘noise’, things which he looped, or things that played the main theme. And I’m glad he did, I’m glad he put so much of himself into this. Simon added a few recordings to Soundescapes, but it was 98% my recordings. I’m sure if Rupert just edited my stuff it would sound different, but I´m glad he added synths, beats and guitars himself. He took my recordings to a different level.”
If Stillium Partita has a major reference point, it would be the electronic soundtracks that emerged most prominently in the Eighties, the interest in which has been rekindled and updated through the likes of Cliff Martinez and his pulsing score for Drive. Icy synth melodies converge with slowly-evolving rhythms and layers of more challenging, Rephlex-esque beats, sounds and textures. Whilst not conceived as a soundtrack at all, while listening to pieces like the expansive and ethereal ‘What’s The Film In Your Head?’ or the menacing, deep ‘Structure & Analysis’, you do find yourself wondering how these sounds might interact with scenes in some imaginary movie.
Jörgensen is emphatic that there wasn’t a plan at all for how these tracks ended up. “I approached Rupert because his take on music is very different from Simon’s. Lally’s stuff was more synth-driven. I’m not going to say that Rupert belongs to a category, but he’s this guy who knows a lot about programs and so on, plus is good at playing and arranging. He uses a lot of soft synths and I wanted to have a contrast to my stuff, which can be very harsh or organic, sound-wise. Rupert felt that the music was genre-less, though I think the album hat tips to certain sounds and ideas. That´s Lally´s fault since he actually knows how to play. But I like it. It has a great contrast sound-wise.”
As was the case when recording Soundescapes with Simon Fisher Turner, Jörgensen and Lally have never actually met. “Ironically, Simon and I finally met at the Great White Silence live performance here in Norway, which was after Soundescapes was made,” says Jörgensen. “We said that we could only work together because there was a distance, and now that we’ve met there can’t be another collaboration. Luckily, I haven’t met Rupert which means that there might be another release or two to come.”
Stillium Partita by Espen J. Jörgensen and Rupert Lally was released 15 July 2012.
Words: Mat Smith
(c) 2022 Further.
An earlier version of this reviewed appeared on Documentary Evidence in 2012