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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

MICROSTORIA, "MODEL 3, STEP 2"
Jan St. Werner (of Mouseon Mars) and Markus Popp (of Oval) have cooked up a third offering of glitchy, cryptic ambience for us, this time without all the rhetoric about music as software and digital revolutions in musical composition. "Nine excursions into the world of downtempo speedcore," as Thrill Jockey's webpage puts it, but to me it sounded like the drones and rumbles that were so fascinating on Mouse on Mars' "Instrumentals" providing an unappreciated undercurrent to Popp's software-generated quirks, bleeps, and glitches. Now and then it resembles a fully realized orchestral work mangled into utter unrecognizability by its composers' computers.
Your reaction to "model 3, step 2" will no doubt be determined by your attitude towards Popp and his studies in computer-generated incoherence. If you're the chin-stroking type who plumbed the fascinating depths of "94diskont," "Dok," and "Ovalprocess" and came back hungry for more, then this will probably prove rewarding after a few listens, or at least briefly interesting. "Dok," the result of another Popp collaboration (with Toyko's Christophe Charles), shimmered with an organic beauty that fails to materialize here; likewise, the weird sonic explorations and occasional thematic coherence that made Microstoria's "INIT DING" worthwhile just aren't apparent. The result is neither compelling nor essential.

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