Sigtryggur Berg Sigmarsson – “OK Computer Music” (2019)

We don’t get a lot of snow in Seattle.  Some winters it doesn’t snow at all, and when it does we typically only get an inch or two.  Those paltry inches, however, are enough to shut down half the city for a day as we simply don’t have the infrastructure to handle it.

Last Sunday it started snowing in the afternoon, and by the time I got up on Monday morning there were five inches of the white stuff on my car with more still falling.  I think we topped out at around six inches at my house.  While the roads weren’t great, by Tuesday it was at least possible to get around.  But then came the news that we’d be getting more of it on Friday – four to eight inches worth.  That prompted the usual jokes in Seattle.  “Well I guess that means we’ll have somewhere between zero and 100 inches then”.  The weather here is notoriously difficult to predict, and we never let the forecasters forget it.

It showed for a bit yesterday but seemed to fade out in the evening.  I still wasn’t surprised, however, to wake up to find about six more inches of powder covering everything, a sheet of white outside my living room window, the tall pines with their branches hanging low under the weight of it.  Thankfully it’s Saturday so we have nowhere we need to be.  And since we have power that means I can make coffee, turn on the icicle Christmas lights we still have hanging in the living room, and bask in the quietness while I listen to OK Computer Music on low volume so as to not disturb the hibernating Mrs. Life in the Vinyl Lane.

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I just got my copy of OK Computer Music in the mail from Sigmarsson, a CD in a limited edition of 100 copies.  Last year I wrote about his works The Found Tapes (2016) and Abstract Art Automat (2018), as well as some of his work as part of Stilluppsteypa including last year’s Beach Jolanda.  The man is nothing if not prolific, both individually and as a collaborator.

OK Computer Music is composed as a single 47 minute track.  Within that composition are different segments that can be differentiated from one another.  Calling those segments songs seems like a bit of a misnomer, as they don’t adhere to any structural format or follow any set rules, at least not from an outside perspective.  The quieter passages are particularly enjoyable, painting a mood that seems to cover this dimly lit room in a gossamer layer of somberness, the occasional vocal sounds subdued like quiet chorus making its way to you from the other side of an old stone cathedral, electronic music that somehow also feels old.

Sigmarsson’s music certainly has abstract and experimental elements to it, and OK Computer Music is no exception.  Personally I find his work quite musical – it’s only in the way the various elements interact that things fall outside of the norm.  I suspect that for albums like this the listener’s personal experiences have just as strong if not stronger influence over their perceptions than do Sigmarsson’s own intentions.  Parts of OK Computer Music slide into the background as I listen, while others seem to leap out of the speakers and compel me to turn and look, as if somehow seeing the speakers will explain what is causing these sensations in my mind and body.  And I’d be willing to bet the passages that don’t capture me have the totally opposite effect on others, hence the sense that this is music that allows the listener to connect with it in their own way.  And that, my friends, is OK Computer Music‘s beautiful secret.

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