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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

Nada Surf, "The Proximity Effect"
It's the same story we've all heard countless times. Band has hit single on MTV Buzz Bin. Band's album does reasonably well in US, selling a couple hundred thousand copies. Label wants new record to capitalize on success. Band goes into studio, records album far superior to first record, but artistically more challenging. Label says they don't hear a single. They want a song that sounds a lot like the big hit single. Band balks, and asks to be let out of contract. Label agrees, but holds on to rights to album, making it hard for band to release it. It seems the label in this story always seems to be Elektra, by the way, and it is in this case. The band this time is Nada Surf, and the album is the recently released "The Proximity Effect," originally scheduled for release in 1998. The album was available on import for a while, as, curiously, Elektra DID release it in Australia. But now, the record gets it's domestic debut, with a few changes. It's missing their cover of "Why Are You So Mean To Me?" that was on the import, but they add an original bonus track to take its place. It also features some multimedia content. But what about the songs? Nada Surf's big hit, the quirky and funny but otherwise totally forgettable high school anthem "Popular," gave no indication of where this band could go musically. "The Proximity Effect" is a tour-de-force record, showing off the strengths of the band members brilliantly. From the opening track, "Hyperspace," the listener is introduced to the new Nada Surf. More high-energy than slacker, more melodic than speakeasy, and better songwriting than before, the band is musically light years beyond "high/low." and Matthew Caws' voice sounds great. They do it all here: high speed rockers, angry tell-offs with loud power chords, gorgeous slow power pop, and mid-tempo rockers with a message. It's a fantastic album, and well worth your hungry ears. Since the band released it on their own label, it may be hard to find, but that just makes you appreciate it more, doesn't it?



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