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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

Anyone who mourned the passing of Otomo Yoshihide's incendiary plunderphonic rock improv explosion Ground Zero should give 'Anode' a blast now! The opening and closing highly percussive attacks are comparable to the middle section of Ground Zero's 'Last Concert' recording, where the duelling drums let fly, however these are more chaotic and loose, multi-layered and free. Perhaps this is no surprise considering Ground Zero demolition drummers Uemura Masahiro and Yoshigaki Yasuhiro are once more punishing the skins. 'Anode' was improvised under the conditions that the twelve musicicans do not respond to each other, do not plot an obvious course and do not play regular rhythms or melodies. The ten and sixteen minute variations of "Anode 1" are as raucous and cacophanous as you might expect, but are also more uplifting and joyful than anything I've heard all year. Six percussionists skitter and tumble thunderously foot over head as sine waves wail, an empty turntable buzzes and electric guitar feedback sings dissonant voids. Sandwiched between are two calm and reflective realisations of the 'Anode' game, which nod to John Cage's aleatory composition. "Anode 2" is the calm after the storm, as slow random trickles bounce off each other in curious lines. It segues neatly into "Anode 3" on which Nishi Yoko's prepared 17-string koto looms into the foreground pursuing a more climactic feel. Familiar names from the Japanorama tour such as guitarist Sugimoto Taku, sine waver Sachiko M and percussionist Furuta Mari are on board, and in Liverpool a four player version of "Anode 1" was the highlight. Otomo Yoshihide has released a mind boggling number of CDs, usually of very high quality and originality but some more essential than others. Alongside the I.S.O. CDs, this is the most assured and fascinating he's sounded since the demise of Ground Zero in 1998. Half of it's Otomo and friends at their noisiest, and few kick up such a glorious racket.



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