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Jon Mueller/Jason Kahn, "Topography"

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cover imageBesides running the prolific Crouton label, Jason Mueller has also been extremely busy working on his own music this year (this is his eighth release on Table of the Elements this year, that says quite a bit!).  This collaborative release with Jason Kahn shows both artists heavily affecting their percussion far beyond what it originally sounded like, in addition to a bit of cassette tape and analog synth.


Xeric/Table of the Elements/Crouton

Considering how prolific he is, most are probably familiar with the fact that when Jon Mueller performs percussion, it is rarely recognizable as that.  On Topography, occasionally there are elements that sound like a hailstorm on massive pieces of sheet metal (most notably on "New York 2"), but that is the only sort of situation where the percussion actually sounds percussive.  For the most part this takes on more the tone of a noise album than anything else.  The processed percussion is molded and shaped into heavy walls of midrange noise.

The noise elements cover all five tracks like a thick white blanket of snow, similar to the beautiful subtle artwork on the sleeve.  I think this is the greatest shortcoming of the disc, however, in that it gives a monotone snowblindness to the disc that makes the individual tracks harder to discern and causes it to simply blend in with records of a similar ilk.  The subtleties of the tracks that set them apart are noteworthy though:  the sound which could only be described as a feedbacking vacuum cleaner alongside hollow percussion and a warm analog fuzz.

The first New York track and "Boston" lean towards the more open, atmospheric vibe of noise in that it is not dense, but is more vast and wide open in its sound.  The former has a field recording quality, like the noisier elements were recorded from a distance:  the mechanical hum and rough textures seem to be coming from somewhere just out of sight.  The latter has a slower development that builds from a spacious opening to a dense, filtered closing, all the time having some wonderfully interesting crunchy static throughout.

Topography is an extremely accomplished release, which is unsurprising coming from Mueller and Kahn.  The problem is that it doesn't stand out on its own amongst other similar releases.  Both artists are clearly well established, and the fact that most of this release is sourced from the sound of percussion is certainly impressive, but on the whole it doesn't sound drastically different on this release than other artists of this ilk.  It is enjoyable, but it feels all too familiar.


Last Updated on Sunday, 15 June 2008 14:32  


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