The Berg Sans Nipple
Along the Quai
Team Love
2007
B



the Berg Sans Nipple, i.e. Frenchman Lori Sean Berg and Nebraskan Shane Aspegren, have emerged from virtual nothingness to make a graceful, shimmering album of soft-focus electronic pop. Sure, their MySpace page confirms two previous EPs and one full-length, but if Google hits are any indication of larger recognition, I’m more well-known than the Berg Sans Nipple, and I’ve done next to nothing with my short life. Perhaps the problem is one of temperament; no one who made an album as liquid and diffuse as Along the Quai could be very comfortable pimping themselves out to publicists and shelling out demos.

It’s too bad—Along the Quai is an accomplishment, a unified and often gorgeous set of hazy, middle-distance electropop, the kind that made the Postal Service’s Give Up ubiquitous wallpaper for movie previews, car commercials, and everyone’s break-up in ‘04. Like Give Up, not a single sound on Along the Quai startles, grates, or vexes: dreamy synthesizers coo at restive, sputtering drum machines, while a male falsetto murmurs and cries in the background. The cloudy, indistinct vibe is perfect for fondly misremembering things. I suggest the album for around 11pm on a weeknight, when you need to lend elegance to a mundane task like picking up your room.

A peek below the music’s drowsy surface, however, reveals that there is actually an impressive amount of activity churning beneath. A lot of this music—Air, Boards of Canada, Dntel—billows forth in formless clouds, but the Berg Sans Nipple’s songs move with liquid grace. Themes develop, rather than just float in and out. An idea plinked out on a glockespiel resurfaces in watery synths on “Horse Shoes and Hand Grenades”; a buzzing army of video-game blips hijacks the end of the beaming indie-pop of “Along the Quai.” Aspegren and Berg flesh out the tracks with an impressive array of percussion, including bongos, glockenspiel, steel drums, and cascading rock drums, all without disturbing the album’s aura of mystery.

Sometimes, though, it wouldn’t hurt to puncture that bubble. This album flows so gently into your headphones that it’s a little too easy to close your eyes and be lulled to sleep beneath its murmuring waves. After a dozen or so listens, nothing much distinguishes the cooled-out, easy-listening melodica on “Aquarium Sounds” from the genteel, Dntel-meet-Yo-la-Tengo vibe of “Mystic Song.” And then there are those goddamn chimes—every one of these tracks are absolutely lousy with glockenspiel and xylophone. Go a little easier next time, boys; a little “ping” goes a long way.

These are minor, carping complaints, however. This is a lovely album, overlaid with a beatific, slightly druggy haze that favorably recalls Kevin Shields. (There is just enough grainy texture left in the loops to suggest attention from human hands.) After you’ve cleaned your room to this album, leave it on while you sit on the bed and look around, contented that everything is momentarily right in your little world. The Berg Sans Nipple will not change your life, but they will make its quieter moments more pleasant.



Reviewed by: Jayson Greene
Reviewed on: 2007-01-29
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