The first Sternpost album was a pleasant surprise, and although it set the bar for the follow-up very high, I was not prepared for this: “Anti-clock” is a true marvel.
For those of you who do not know, Sternpost is a solo project by Petter Herbertsson from experimental pop band Testbild!.
Petter himself describes the music on “Anti-clock” as a sound collage, but it could really fit into a number of genres, such as ambient, experimental, electronic, musique concrète. Or progressive rock: Although Peter cites Lindsay Cooper and Chris Cutler as inspirations, I would rather describe this as National Health filtered through Karda Estra and imagined as the soundtrack to a film about a world where humans never regained language capacity after being punished for building the tower of Babel.
But arguing about genres is pointless. What is important is the fact that this music believes in its own capacity to explore. And that is incredibly exciting.
In this age of streaming, everyone can have encyclopaedic knowledge of music, and there are simultaneous parallel revivals of all genres as a consequence. Everything has a tendency to collapse into a post-modern game of spot-the-reference. Yet, “Anti-clock” has the power to make the listener believe there is still an unknown (and, in this particular case, unspeakable) musical landscape out there.
Although presented as a continuous piece of music – divided in two only because the LP format demands it – in reality this is more like a concept album consisting of short tracks tied together by field recordings, odd sounds, voices and snippets of dialogue between a man and a woman. Unfortunately their babble (brilliantly delivered by David Yates and his daughter Mabel) is unintelligible, although we can understand the emotional content of their chatter.
The tracks themselves are mainly instrumental and the few vocals that appear are again impossible to decipher, so if there is a story unfolding here, the listener has no way of finding out.
The music is often complex in a Canterbury prog way, but can without warning become quite simple or take on a dreamy, filmic quality. I suppose the atmosphere is quite dark at times, but there is too much musical playfulness for the darkness to linger very long. Melodies are frequently gorgeous, with chord progressions typical of Petter Herbertsson.
Taken as a whole, this album is of course very experimental, but the sweet tunefulness of much of it makes for a surprisingly easy listen. And most importantly, it never gets boring.
At the time of this writing, my iTunes play count is clocking in at 97 plays. And in this era of over-abundance of music, that is huge. That is probably ten times more than I listen to other albums however much I like them. As it happens, the only album that I have played more in recent years is “Il Misantropo Felice” by the Breznev Fun Club.
In other words, judging by my own listening data, I can’t refute the fact that “Anti-clock” must be one of my favourite albums of the decade.