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Zbigniew Karkowski & Daniel Menche, "Unleash"

cover imageDaniel Menche discussed on his now infamous blog how his attendance at a Karkowski show was a major inspiration and motivation for his now prolific career in sound art.  I would imagine that for that reason he would have some sense of intimidation working with his hero, but this live in the studio collaboration shows no sense of trepidation, just two masters shaping sound into frightening and fascinating sculptures.

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The collaboration is split into six untitled pieces for the sake of the listener, though it is relentless in its hour-long duration.  The opening of skittering drum sounds alone before the rattling digital tones kick in, make for one of the few sparse elements in this recording.  Beyond here, it gets denser and thicker.  Unlike some of Menche’s more open and ambient experiments of late, this stays more in the realms of his earlier harsh work, though with more of an electronic sheen instead of overdriven tube amps.

As the first section pushes on, the rhythm elements stick around as metallic scrapes, buzzing tones, and nasal electronic pulses cut through, the mix eventually becoming dominated by the high pitched noise frequencies, though the drums still stay buried there.  This continues on, being complimented by some deep overdriven rumbling, blasts of static and higher, almost chiming tones that could be musical in some other dimension.

The static eventually supplants the high pitched noises, being cut up like a helicopter matched with hissing air compressors and artifacts of cheap time-stretched effects.  Eventually this takes a back seat to pure harsh static that recalls the halcyon days of the harsh noise scene, which both of these artists were pioneers in.  This continues on, the percussive thump eventually rising up to make itself known, but always stays under the din.

The last segment continues on with the thump, but the noise begins to break away, sheets of noise splashing about, crunchy distortion, and painful buzzing that morphs into painfully shrill tones, which are what closes the disc on its own, leaving a ringing that lasts in the ears after the disc closes.

This disc in some ways does recall the early golden days of harsh noise in its pure electronic abstraction and chaos, yet rather than just pummeling with volume instead it stays a bit more restrained, allowing the variety of textures that are here to be experienced rather than just suffered through.  As the first of two studio collaborations, I'm now eager to find out how the second one recorded will turn out.

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Review of the Day

Tyondai Braxton, "History That Has No Effect"
JMZ Records
Tyondai Braxton has an intimate relationship with his guitar pedals. Every sound Braxton makes on this CD - primarily using guitar and voice - is processed through various combinations of a bevy of effects. The nine tracks on this disc are surprisingly diverse, and I imagine there's a good deal of improvisation going on. The first three tracks use only voice and guitar pedals, but you wouldn't know it - "(A Sentence Worth a Thousand Words) Great Mass" is a dense atmospheric soundscape and "Light Pitch Black, I'm Gonna Start Shining Bright!!!" is beat-heavy minimal electronica (probably the most impressive use of beat-boxing in a long time). A disc full of these voice experiments would still be interesting, but things quickly take a turn as the guitar becomes a focal instrument: there's the anthemic post-rock of "Raise Yr Arms & Cross Them", featuring a violist and cellist, and then there's the excellent "The Violent Light Through Falling Shards," where Braxton's guitar stirs up echoes of Charles Bullen over beat-boxed industrial beats and siren-like noise. In fact, the entire disc is reminiscent of This Heat, not so much in sound (though at times the comparison can be made), but in application; Braxton's hands-on computerless approach to making layered music reflects This Heat's experiments using traditional instruments combined with the live manipulation of tape loops. The final two tracks on the album feature Braxton's singing, a voice that at times almost sounds like (dare I say it) Peter Gabriel. Of these two tracks, "Struck Everywhere" is particularly engaging: a 10-minute, free-flowing melodic piece bedded on a ride cymbal loop. This disc pretty accurately replicates Braxton's live show, where he sits on the floor with a guitar and mic in the middle of a sea of wires, constantly playing, singing, and fiddling with his pedals. He's definitely got it down to an art, as I'm pretty sure all his sounds are created on the spot, with no samples. I wouldn't be surprised if most or all of the intensely-layered tracks on this disc were done in one take without overdubs. It's really an impressive disc.

 

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