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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.

Alien8

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.

samples:

 

 

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Review of the Day

Cornelius, "Five Point One"; Belle & Sebastian, "Fans Only
Matador
Five Point One is comprised of two discs: a DVD compiling all ten the videos from Cornelius's 2002 album Point and an audio CD of remixes from the album contributed by fans as part of a contest. The videos, while creative, have a subtle, background feel to them, and seem to be intended more for use in Cornelius's live shows than on their own (and indeed, they were played as a backdrop during his tour for Point). While not wholly uninteresting, the videos are static in their content, usually relying on one or two primary images. "Point of View Point" shows cars and trains in motion, while "Drop" features a little boy standing in front of a sink while the water, synchonized to the beat, drips into the basin. The most enjoyable of the videos is "Tone Twilight Zone," with its images of two fingers walking (Yellow Pages-style) through a landscape of ordinary household objects. The remix CD, PM, is a mixed bag, running the gamut from electronic dance to japanoise to thrashy rock. Some are cute and catchy, and others are forgettable.

Fans Only takes on the task of documenting Belle & Sebastian's inception in 1995 through their seven years of recordings for Matador and Jeepster. Their videos and live footage from various performances around ther world are interwoven into behind-the-scenes material and interviews. The videos proper are largely charmingly appropriate twee shots of the band (there are at least a few where they're seen clutching various stuffed animals) and their friends using super-8 cameras and other low-budget equipment. Highlights include a rendition of France Gall's "Poupee de Cire, Poupee de Son," recorded for French television and the video for "Legal Man," which features the band decked out in full mod regalia on stage in a decadent nightclub surrounded by freely flowing martinis and bellydancers, and a hilarious interview with the band for a Brazilian TV show. Clocking in at 136 minutes, Fans Only drags at times, but is for the most entertaining and does an excellent job of capturing the lighthearted, playful essence of the band. 
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