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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.

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Review of the Day

Greg Davis "Mort aux Vaches"
Staalplaat
Greg Davis' music is difficult to not like. If abstract computer music is at all your thing (and it occasionally is mine), Davis' is nothing if not pleasant. It exudes a serene positiveness—an easy and smiling warmth. The music of this disc, culled from a live radio session on VPRO in Amsterdam and featuring songs that appeared on his previously released albums and singles, appears to be grounded in folk and pop songs with the structures gently splayed into digital dots. Stephan Mathieu and Christian Fennesz tread along paths such as this one, but Davis' music is remarkable in that, despite the random bleeping noises, there are no sharp edges to it at all. It's inoffensive, innocuous, fading into the background just as readily as it intruiges (to those who wish to engage it in this manner) with the richness of its component sounds. When Davis finally sings and plays acoustic guitar in the Beach Boys cover that closes this album, I imagine him sitting with his laptop at the bedside of a child, tucking her in and lulling her to sleep. Or else he's sitting on a swing in some lush garden on a sunny afternoon, soaking in the sun and running some loose melodies through a Max patch. This could easily veer off into Nobukazu Takemura-like quasi-New Age drool, but somehow it remains tasteful. Only a real cynic could not smile along with him. 
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