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Kevin Tomkins, "Pachinko Noise", "Short Electronic PIeces"

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cover imageTomkins is of course more well known for his power electronics work as Sutcliffe Jugend, he (as well as SJ partner Paul Taylor) have been using their own label, Between Silences, to release a multitude of experiments and improvisations.  Here, Tomkins goes into a more experimental electronic direction, including seven full discs of material inspired by Japanese pachinko halls.

Between Silences

Like the 17 disc Weave (which was all autoharp-based material), Pachinko Noise is an obsessive exploration of a single topic.  Inspired by the electronic and metallic chaos of pachinko halls during a 2011 visit to Japan, Tomkins used only a Korg Kaossilator to create the material spread across seven CDRs, each clocking in around 40 minutes.

There comes to be certain commonalities between pieces:  tracks like "Pachinko Silverhalls" and "Pachinko Pachino," throw together stuttering outbursts and noise-laden blasts on top of a buried, but perceptible concession to melody, juxtaposing the noise and the music.  On "Pachinko Rush," it goes even more into musical territory, vaguely mimicking techno, albeit in an apocalyptic manner.

In some cases, there may be little sense of melody, but a rhythmic undercurrent can still be heard.  On pieces like "Pachinko Stretch," the rapid-fire percussive bits come together in a manner not all that dissimilar from latter day Autechre (think "Gantz Graf") but still retaining a unique feel.  "Pachinko Perversion" even goes farther, almost embracing late 1990s drum and bass.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Tomkins release without pushing the noise envelope somewhat, and "Pachinko Duel" and "Pachinko Habitat" are great examples of this, coming out as pure, harsh electronic noise that is as violent as any Merzbow record.  "Pachinko Sound" is another chaotic piece, but with its hollow rattling and siren-like swells, it sounds like it could be a pachinko hall field recording.

Across seven discs, there is quite a lot to take in here, and I think if this were to be a more traditional, commercially based release, some editing and pairing down of the material would make for a stronger release.  However, as a piece of intentional, obsessive sonic indulging, it definitely works.

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Short Electronic Pieces is drawn from a similar place sonically, but has a more distinct, varied sound to it, feeling more like a compilation of singular pieces rather than a complete album.  "Slyver" and "Light Funk", for example, are all microscopic digitally delayed notes that cross into the technoid-realms of Pachinko Noise.

However, the digital plucked strings and pitch-bent voices of "Walks" have a more significant musical sheen about it, making it stand out on its own.  "Quaid Series 1" just goes for it and brings a steady, metronomic rhythm, albeit hollow, into a skeletal techno track.  "Thiswas" cuts the beats back to  clicks and pops, but remains in the realm of minimal electro.

Then again, there are the experimental, unstructured pieces like "Slointed" that have a wet, pulsing sound that feels more in-line with the earliest electronic music recordings.  "Vuldy Ewn" throws radio interference with Morse code like layers of sound, resulting in a piece that straddles ambience and noise.  Finally, with the closing "Strins," Tomkins delivers pure, symphonic synth passages that feel like a powerful piece of film-score work.

For both of these releases, there is a sense of overkill, but never in a way that actually hurts them.  I don't think that, even if paired down to shorter, more unified albums, they would really benefit significantly.  I went into listening to both of these works expecting them to be sprawling, obsessive collections of material, and that’s exactly what I got.  In both cases it can be a lot to take in during a single sitting, but given the right amount of time and space when listening, both come across quite well as captivating electronic works.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 18 March 2012 22:12  


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