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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.


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

cEvin Key, "the ghost of each room"
Skinny Puppy/Download founding member cEvin Key (Kevin Crompton) returns with his 2nd solo outing for Metropolis Records. It seemed to me that much of the first one, 1998's "Music for Cats", was unfinished leftovers from other projects. This album may very well be the same but it also feels fully realized as a project unto its own. Key plays just about everything - electronics, drums, guitar, bass, etc. - and collaborates with many: Justin Bennett (guitar, Professional Murder Music), K. Tokoi (saxophone), Omar Torres and Kent Clelland of Native Instruments, Bill Van Rooy (bass), Phil Western (synths, Download/Plateau), Ken Marshall (electronics, Download), all of The Legendary Pink Dots and recently reunited Puppy compatriot Ogre, among others. The shadowy influence of Jamaica is cast over parts of the album, from the artwork to the electro dub strains, most notably in the ganja haze groove of "Horopter", to the radio banter in "Klora". Saxophone riffs add an unexpectedly welcome flair to "Tatayama". "15th Shade" and "A Certain Stuuckey" are likely a precursor of things to come from the Tear Garden (Key + LPD). Both feature Edward Ka-Spel's calm and collected, detailed spoken story telling, the former over an addictive bass line and guitar meandering and the latter over a fragmented soup of bass, synth and beats. "Frozen Sky" gives one SP flashbacks - pretty synth sequences, "Process"-era heavy duty guitar chords, vocoded vocals - and, again, is probably a precursor of future work. The remaining tracks are mostly jittery electronic jams of the recent Download/Plateau mindset. The more Key works with a variety of others, the more varied and interesting the results ...



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