Norwegian saxophonist, composer and artist Bendik Giske announces his new album, Cracks, out August 27th on Smalltown Supersound, and shares the Kiani del Valle-directed video for lead single, “Flutter.” Cracks follows Giske’s 2019 acclaimed debut, Surrender, and Untitled, a collaborative project with Pavel Milyakov aka Buttechno released earlier this year. Collaborating with producer André Bratten, Cracks sees Giske using his signature physical and hypnotic techniques in addition to Bratten’s extensive studio of electronic machines, including the new “resonant” space of Bratten’s reactive studio tuned to his original sounds. If this new studio-as-an-instrument process has brought Giske one step closer to the man-machine, it’s also a way to bridge the separation – or crack – between the two. This kind of liminal space, according to Giske, is to be treasured.
“The tracks wedge themselves into the cracks of our perceived reality to explore them for their beauty,” explains Giske. “A celebration of corporeal states and divergent behaviours.”
Lead single, “Flutter,” is made of an otherworldly rhythm created by Giske’s saxophone, sounding almost percussive as mics placed close by capture the sound of his fingers tapping the keys, blurring the line between body and instrument. Its video is “a work about unraveling fragility and how this can lead us to bursts of chaos we don’t expect,” states director Kiani del Valle. “Partly inspired by George Sorel’s 1908 book ‘Reflections on Violence,’ as well as the constant movement, turmoil, ferocity, melancholy, and beauty of this world, we see how that energy translates into one vessel / one body. A curious eye witnesses this body sensing, twitching, twisting and contracting. Spiraling eyewitnesses and dances with projections of the self in catharsis. I wanted to explore the duality of the performance act, never landing at a concrete ethos. I see the piece as ‘laboratory for one,’ or a ‘laboratory of the self.’ A physical, sonic and visual metamorphosis for the never-ending fight to maintain the light close to us.”
The body is important for Giske, not just in the strength and muscle control required to accomplish his mesmerizing circular breathing on the saxophone. It’s also reflected in the tradition of dance he practiced as a child during his split time in Bali and Oslo, and enjoyed as part of an electronic music epiphany in his adopted hometown of Berlin. Body is implied in his sense of queerness, which has helped him create his own sound, blossoming luxuriantly not only on record but also in his striking, embodied performances. As such, in the past Giske has likened his performance to transmuting electronic music through all of his human faults, akin to becoming a machine. With Cracks, he introduces a new set of parameters for the automated processes of his muscle memory to work against.
In a sense, you could call it generative music – a term coined by Brian Eno to describe music made within a set of rules that can constantly evolve within that system. But here the only algorithms at work are responding to Giske’s self-imposed constraints (or parameters) – like the afore-mentioned circular breathing. As a practice, it induces in the player – and perhaps the listener, too – a kind of altered state, more open to discovery, and as a cycle of sound it defies time. This atemporality, or out-of-timeliness, hints at theorist José Muñoz’s notion of “queer time,” which is a chronology wholly other than the default.
Giske cheerfully admits to mining the thought universe of Muñoz – especially his book Cruising Utopia – as inspiration, and the resulting Cracks have a sensual, deeply-felt and lingering beauty with a touch of the superhuman.