Intelligent Pushing: Starten På Slutningen – The Beginning Of The End

· 06.03.2013 · Keine Kommentare

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It’s been eight months since Danish industrial hiphop act Intelligent Pushing hit me with full force and I’m still letting myself down into the dark, oppressive world of Andreas Bjerring (aka Dynamic H) and Michael Manky (aka Michael Mental) with persistent regularity. Again and again I tried to explain my enthusiasm for Intelligent Pushing – to others and especially to myself.

The Beginning Of The End

In the universe of Intelligent Pushing, which is an as oppressive as incredibly deep space, weird musical details are lurking, sizzling, screeching for attention. Forefront Michael speaks the foreign language, his voice appearing this attractive kind of arrogance that makes you think he has seen the most, understand a lot and is already one step ahead of everything.

Except for the still outstanding Danish language course I hardly spared any effort to get my thoughts in context to the lyrics. »The lyrics are important. To me it’s the most important thing about Intelligent Pushing«, of course Michael said when we I met him last summer in Copenhagen to bring a little light into the lyrical darkness. Whether to use our meeting in an interview or just talk, we chose the second option and ordered some beers. Not enough to wash away the main statements and impressions completely. So Starten På Slutningen (»the beginning of the end«) would be mainly about depression, Michael told me. It’s about addiction and therefore basically about the greed of always wanting more of something or somebody. But the lyrics would be full of metaphors and abstract wordplays so the content is really hard to capture, even for Danish speakers. And it’s meant to be so; Self-protection.

You probably develop certain sensitivity for the states of mind you yourself have already been close to. From my very own personal perspective at that moment it all matched and made sense. It made me even more amazed about what music can mean – even across three different languages.

Andreas, Michael’s musical partner in crime explains it like this: »I’m not sure if I understand it all or even Michael himself does… We do use quite a few alternative expressions … but to me it’s like a David Lynch movie – we don’t want to put it all out there. We want the listener to explore the universe himself. No face, no nothing, just the listener’s state of mind, making sense of it all.«

*** For a translation of the first (Flugt) and the last song (Realitycheck) of Starten På Slutningen – from Danish over German into English – click here. [Thanks to Lee Ann & Michael]

Mindfuck In 3D

By the two dimensions text and music Intelligent Pushing are not going to stop at all. Nine months after the release of Starten På Slutningen the album will be released once again – in a binaural version. Trying to keep it simple this means as much as 3D-sound for your ears respectively your mind. With the help of special technical equipment sound engineer Emil Sauer and Andreas mixed the songs again so the listener gets a spatial impression and is able to localize the directions of the sound precisely. Unlike conventional stereo recordings the binaural sound does only work when being played with headphones.

Patiently Andreas tried to explain the technical procedure to me:

»We actually mixed the album in Dolby Surround sound. But instead of using five speakers as it is standard for Dolby Surround setups, we used seven speakers. Then we used an algorithm to convert it to binaural stereo. Basically we just trick the brain to believe that the seven speakers are around the listener.

We thought of two ways to do this. The first one would mean to convert all the sounds in 3D, the second one would be to use only a few selected sounds. We chose the second option, as it enabled us to put the lyrics inside the listener’s head, while the universe could kind of evolve around the listener. If you listen to the dubs, which means the second vocals, they are all kind of flying in from behind the listener. That gives it a somewhat schizophrenic expression, which I’m very pleased with.«

An album like Starten På Slutningen which is so full of musical details seems to be made for an experiment like this …

»When we first hooked up with Emil, we just had one song ready – Flugt. Back then Emil was writing his bachelor degree in sound engineering and 3D-sound and it just happened to be that he could use a hiphop project for testing the technology. So we pulled an all-nighter at the Royal Danish Music Academy recording and mixing Flugt for his bachelor by using a technique called dummy head recording. Emil got perfect score for it and we agreed to try that again for our next album.

So the rest of the album was made with the 3D-sound in mind. However; No one has ever made a 3D-album like this before, so we didn’t know what would work, and what wouldn’t.
I don’t think the album would sound much different were it not done with the 3D idea in mind. Starten På Slutningen is the result of a six year long musical experiment and honestly: we just thought about achieving the absolute best product of the universe we’ve created over the years.«

Could this be one way for upcoming music to add more dimensions for extending the experience?

»Honestly? I don’t think so. For that to happen, the process behind creating music that way had to be improved. There is a variety of software applications that can simulate the 3D-room around the listener but none of them are very good. It also turned out that the dummy head recording technology we used to record Flugt wasn’t an optimal solution. So the Royal Danish Music Academy contacted Smyth Research – an American company, who had created a binaural stereo algorithm – and they let us borrow one of their experimental products;  a not yet released beta version of the Realiser A8. By using this one we achieved the best result. The backside of using such a high-end product is that it’s really difficult to program. And it costs A LOT of money.

However, the software inside of this ›Realiser machine‹ could just as well be integrated into an iPhone-app or whatever program musicians use, so it could definitely happen to become more integrated in popular music. But I don’t think it will ever be standard though as it’s not very suited for radio music. Keep in mind it’s only working with headphones and most people want to be able to play their music in the car or wherever.«

From Sunday, March, 10 the 3D-version of Starten På Slutningen will be streamed on the band’s website. It’ll be sold as digital release only, coming in double pack together with the normal version on the band’s bandcamp site.

*** I’m giving away a free download code for the 3D-version (only) to the first two requests I receive via email to redaktion[at]mittelstern[.]de.

S U P E R N U L – a photographic downfall

The overall concept of Starten På Slutningen finds its visual expression in a series of photographs by Danish artist Aske Rif Torbensen. The project called Supernul accompanies the mental collapse from super ego to super zero. In the cool slaughterhouse atmosphere of Galleri Kontraframe in Copenhagen the visitor gets excluded from the outside world by cozy headphones, and the interaction of photographs, lyrics and 3D-sound sends him on a journey into a dark and claustrophobic universe. For this Aske has worked closely together with Intelligent Pushing for two years.

»It was back in 2008, I guess, when we met him at our second show and from then on he followed us pretty much everywhere, from the studio to our shows.«, Andreas remembers, »At the very moment we saw his photographs for the first time, we knew there was something special about it.«

Each of the nine songs of Starten På Slutningen was portrayed by Aske with one – analogously alienated – face.

1. Flugt - Intelligent Pushing - Photo: Aske Rif Torbensen 2. Totalteater - Intelligent Pushing - Photo: Aske Rif Torbensen 3. Beta/Meta - Intelligent Pushing - Photo: Aske Rif Torbensen
4. På Vrangen - Intelligent Pushing - Photo: Aske Rif Torbensen 5. Serotonin Søndag - Intelligent Pushing - Photo: Aske Rif Torbensen 6. Epicenter - Intelligent Pushing - Photo: Aske Rif Torbensen
7. Spektakulært - Intelligent Pushing - Photo: Aske Rif Torbensen 8. Method - Intelligent Pushing - Photo: Aske Rif Torbensen 9. Realitycheck - Intelligent Pushing - Photo: Aske Rif Torbensen

»There is a deep connection between the songs and the photographs. Aske has been involved in this album back from when we first started and from the conceptual perspective he has been as much a part of the creative process as Michael and I were.«, Andreas explains, »These nine photographs represent this crazy kind of breakdown that Starten På Slutningen is about. Some of the photos represent the lyrics directly but most of them just kind of follow the overall theme of the album. As I see it, it’s up to everyone to tell how the photos relate to the music.«

Michael has been the model for the photographs so there’s still a face … ?

»When I said there was ›no face, no nothing‹, I meant it. We always had this idea that by not personalizing anything the listener would find the music more personal. Instead of imagining someone rapping, you’d be forced to make up your own ›person‹ and hopefully you would be able to identify yourself with the singer … Does this make sense?
The pictures do show the outline of a face but it’s always looking much distorted and in most cases not visible at all. The faces on the photographs could be anyone and that’s the whole point.«

The exhibition will be open until April, 5 at Galleri Kontraframe (opening hours: Mon – Fri 10 – 16, Sat 12 – 16). Three of the works – including no. 9: Realitycheck, in which the eyes are decorated with real diamonds – have already been sold. For the equivalent of about 2000 Euros the purchaser gets not only a lambda print of the chosen photography (92,5 x 92,5 cm) but also a mp3 player with a special unique version of the associated song plus a set of fluffy headphones by the Danish company AIAIAI.

»A thing we’ve been always talking about for Intelligent Pushing is that each element should represent all of Intelligent Pushing. We wanted to be able to separate all the elements of Intelligent Pushing without hurting the overall vibe of it. The music represents everything in itself, like the lyrics do. So do the photographs. But by combining all the three elements you get the whole picture, all the layers. Everything comes together and lifts the universe.«

The End – the very last show of Intelligent Pushing

On April, 5, by the closing-day of the exhibition Supernul, the last live show of Intelligent Pushing ever will take place too. Actually there will be two shows. For the first one Michael and Andreas are going to perform Starten På Slutningen from the beginning to the end in the gallery. After a short break they will invite everyone to join them in the hall of the back of Galleri Kontraframe where they are going to play a best off set with a full live band.

The very last show?

»Very, very last… maybe«, says Andreas and tries to explain: »With Intelligent Pushing we’ve always tried to push the boundaries of what’s possible. But with Starten På Slutningen we pushed everything to the extreme, musically, technically and conceptually. We consumed the concept entirely. Or maybe it consumed us? The end product is this crazy bastard-child of us, the ultimate Intelligent Pushing product. There’s really nowhere to go from here. Starten På Slutningen is our requiem, and Supernul is the funeral.«

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