It’s hard to describe what’s going on within the grooves of Shiggajon’s Sela. It’s hard to describe Shiggajon. Okay, not really. Shiggajon is a Danish music collective that makes music you might hear prior to the Rapture happening. Or moments before aliens descend onto this planet. Or possibly what you hear in your head during a funeral at sea. It’s a volcanic sound. Overpowering, mighty, menacing, and kinetic. Sela, Shiggajon’s new album, seems to be the sound of bugs devouring the corpse of time, amplified to infinity. It feels like music created within a vast space of trees, brush, and menace. It’s two 18+ minute song cycles that carry you on a tribal, rural journey that neither kills you nor saves you. It merely whips you around for nearly 40 minutes of transcending madness.
So this is what Shiggajon has to say about Shiggajon: “A Danish modern free music collective and continuing collaboration revolving around the duo Nikolai Brix Vartenberg and Mikkel Reher-Langberg. Shiggajon is not freejazz.” Shiggajon is definitely not freejazz. What it is, to my ears, is music and nature colliding in an explosion of strings, woodwinds, percussion, and drone. The two songs collected on Sela feel like slow movements in nature. Something very much of the soil and sea. “Maeander”, on side one is slow moving yet forceful. It starts as intermingling violin strings and light, silvery percussion as the song slowly adds elements until it builds to a caustic conclusion. Much like it’s namesake(Maeander is the ancient name for the Menderes River of Western Turkey), this song flows and plods like a body of water down a gouge in the earth. “Sela” is the whole of side two and it keeps that post-apocalyptic folk sound going. Percussion touches gives the song a Middle Eastern flair, which makes sense given the word’s religious connections. Sela, in biblical terms, means rock. Mentioned by the prophets as “doomed to destruction”, you get that feeling as you listen. Within this track is where you hear what the folks at El Paraiso heard that made them want to put this album out. It resembles some of the spastic, spacey, and expansive vibes of Causa Sui’s Pewt’r Sessions albums, albeit grounded in more ancient waters. As a whole, “Sela” feels less tense and more spiritual and resonates with an inner light. Maybe not optimism, but a tempered stoicism.
Shiggajon’s Sela is an interesting and compelling record. It never explodes, nor does it fizzle either. It feels like a campfire within a dense forest. A distant light you see as you make your way slowly through dangerous foliage. No moon above to guide you, just the distant flickering of flames licking towards the black, night sky. Sela is both the sound of an Appalachian death march through mountains and rivers, and of the universe folding onto itself ever so gently.
8.2 out of 10
Editor’s Note: At press time pressing plant delays have pushed the release of Sela back to August. This is what El Paraiso had to say about it: “Some bad news – due to the current extended delivery time on vinyl, we have to push Shiggajon: Sela into an August release – we thought we had calculated the extended pressing time in the wake of Record Store Day, when delivering the masters and artwork way back in March (!) – making this a whopping 5 months in the printer’s delivery pipeline. We’ll think of something extra for your patience if you preordered the LP.”
Be patient, friends. It’s worth the wait. – JH