Ka – Terrarium
Label: Jazzassin Format: 2×7″
The exquisite paper, smelling of the tire it represents on the cover – “Superior 2000”. Confidence. The vinyl is clear – the speed at which it is to be played is not. So, this re view comes at you from 33 rpm.
It is as if one is standing at the roadside – the drone and grinding Dopplers past. And now the earsplitting taxis on some runway somewhere, from the heart of twilight to another heart, somewhere else. Now taking off side one and now side two takes off. The organist saves the church from burning by driving up and sneaking inside. Some voices now. Spectral items tumble in and out like snowflakes, no two quite the same but comforting in their familiarity.
A focussed rhythm fucks a buzzing upon its entry into the room. It climaxes and fades amongst luminescent bells in the bed of memory. The queasy squeal wheels into view and no one ever answered: IS suicide a solution? The reply comes scrambled, dangled, dandered in sound – all bits of it from the hospital floors. The midnight sun grumbles and whistles down the corridor, but what does it rise on, if not the horizon? A revolution per minute?
Kante – Zwischen Den Orten
Label: Kitty Yo Format: CD,LP
Combing elements of the repetetive Motorik rhythms with samples and a twangy, very American guitar sound, Kante are at least one of the recent upsurge of German electronic-influenced bands who sometimes actually sing in their own language when vocals appear (even if in a manner reminiscent of Talk Talk). Track titles such as “California”, “Highway” and “Gospel” point the general direction their music is facing – West. There are similarities too with label mates Tarwater, particularly in the language-switching “Paradizer,” with its layered rhythms and squeaky loops, but perhaps what Kante lack is an immediately unique identity.
Never actually acheiving either dullness or excellence (though the earnestly-Funky “Highway” veers into dodgy territory, as do the noodly thirteen minutes of “Gospel”), the band produce an entirely commendable series of songs which work in all the expected ways – loping bass interludes, electric keyboard passages, bass /guitar interplay and so forth in the generally hypnotic post-Rock way these things do – and then the music is done and largely forgotten. This is probably more a symptom of the way the (sub)-genre goes than any fault of Kante‘s, and a condition of much current music from Trance to Drum & Bass. But when they get a groove going, as on “Technique Du Sport”, the band show that they can hold onto it for dear life until the appropriate moment to end arrives, helped along by judicious insertion of vocal samples. Nothing ground-breaking then, but a solidly-constructed and often pretty damn good album, give or take the infrequent moment of ill-advised Jazziness.
-Antron S. Meister-
Kapotte Muziek – Live Electro-Acoustic Music
Label: Staalplaat Format: 3″ CD
The tone of bells and the scratch of seconds falling against one another. It seems to be an in-depth exploration of AN instrument. Which instrument is unclear. The sounds are immediate and nearby – as though YOU… are there. Tweezing looping static, the bell is discarded for the titanic timbres of extreme noise terror. A slow plateau to total fadeout; an errant scraping trips alongside as it goes.
Karamasov – On Arrival
Label: Satellite Format: CD
I have mixed feelings about this album. Karamasov are clearly a very good band: The interaction between bass, guitar, percussion and electronics and yes, the occasional cello, is excellent and seeing them live they certainly cut the proverbial mustard. In terms of style I’m afraid the old term Krautrock has to be wheeled out and given a rapid circuit of the block. Karamasov are a nineties Anglo-German Prog Rock outfit informed by the techniques of contemporay Electronica. Unfortunately however, the album feels like a bit of a let down.
The packaging is bad. Not appalling – just not very good. This is probably not directly their fault but they could have tried harder. The more important problem is the production. Adam Stewart – the electronics wizard of the band – has taken it upon himself to produce the debut. It’s all very clean and tidy if you happen to like a clean and tidy sort of sound but he seems to have little feel for the acoustic properties of instruments. The drums are loud and bright but a bit one dimensional and it seems that he has a marked disinterest in the tonal richness of stringed instruments – what used to be called “balls”.
Having said this the inventiveness of the playing will win Karamasov many supporters and the one track with vocals “The Sun Always Shines in Space” is a corker. Drummer Berit Imming’s filtered sunshine vocal line oozes all the narcotic biss of an episode of Space 1999. I await their next release with bated breath and would refer interested parties to their energetic and highly accomplished live performances. (Seconded – Ed.)
Karate – The Bed Is In The Ocean
Label: Southern Format: CD,LP
This sounds like Dire Straits and Thin Lizzy. Yr mum might like it… (That good? – Ed.)
As with the recent “Alas My Shrunken Head” track, Absence Of Evidence finds Edward Ka-Spel in extended atmospheric mood, though on this LP there is a more ominous feel to proceedings. His distant filtered vocals declare their removal and separation; the sounds provide and able declaration of whirling declined accptance of the status quo. The technique is efficiently, elegantly simple; various synthesiser settings are set to cross-echo and phase from speaker to speaker, low slews of rumbling arpeggiations make a diquieting spread of electonics to give a queasy undertow to the equally self-propelled instrumentation.
Hypnagogic, reverberative, dirty sounds compete for psychedelic headspace of the delerious kind. “Evidence of Absence” coils upon itself like the worm Ouroubouros, devouring the world and itself. Hissing, shimmering, sprinkled with occasional windy digital fragments, the planet being eaten is a lonely, desolate one. Where melody arrives, it only serves to counterpoint the apocalypse envisaged; those music box sounds that Ka-Spel loves so well crystallize the notions of homely childhood wonder into a stark contrast – hopeful or sad, the mood is dependent on the listener here, as ever, but the imlications seem uncertain, as unhopeful as the slapped-back dissonances which conclude side one in gurgling distortion and shivery linear trails of delay dropping down to an almost angelic plateau.
This is a deeply involving record, one which promotes contemplation, whether of the chaotic nature of things or of the abstract qualities of the environment-filling music itself. Side two, “Absence Of Evidence”, has a sprighly feel to its layered spirals of melody set almost to the edge of dissolution into the red – plangent major chords waft outwards into thrilling scrawls of buzzing electronics as a rippling rhythms clatters down the bannisters, like a stick run along the railings repeating to itself. If anything, there is a great deal of (perhap not that surprising) affinity with recent solo releases of fellow Legendary Pink Dots founder The Silverman; the same complex attention to synthesizer settings and sampler deviance, and more than a hint of their mood-altering techniques on the Shadoweaver albums. It’s a delightfully twisted piece of work, as sampled vocal snatches accellerate the rapidly evolving motion into lateral areas of percussive loops tumbling out of the playroom and into the mirror world of the asylum. The rattling progress spent, there’s time for a world-weary vocal explication of Ka-Spel’s ironic prophet status to the electronic crackle and introspectively mournful piano once again. Such a sad moment, set all the more down into regretful depths by the fine trails of synth and effects, washing out the world in a slow hissing decline.
So darkness and light are flipped over on each side of Absence Of Evidence, but it’s a blurry distiction to be drawn here. Nothing about the more conventionally pleasant side’s carnival ride could be considered all that eaisly categorised; likewise with the brooding abstractions. These separations are there for the making, but the overall feeling is of a somehow comforting alienation, an unreal trip into a musical world turned upside-down. Given the space to expand out into side-long pieces, Ka-Spel has revealed yet further aspects of his seemingly boundless talent to amaze and befuddle.
-Antron S. Meister-
This collection of odds and ends brings together some highly rare tracks from various singles and EP, and (nearly) completes the CD re-release of the Laugh China Doll LP started by Volume 1. Unfortunately for completists, there are still missing tracks, so it’s still going to be necessary to hunt down the originals. “Even Now” is an all too-brief, simple soaring melody based on a typically arpeggiating keyboard line from the Dance China Doll EP, while “Lady Sunshine” has a similar approach to heartbreak and yearning from the same era (1984). “Find The Lady”, “Paradise Then” and “Atomic Roses” are engaging, cyclical ditties which show both how much and how little the essential heart of Ka-Spel‘s muse has changed over the years – especially in the case of the latter’s cheap drum-machine and keyboards arranged into bouncy apocalyptic angst, which Edward continues to re-work live on occasion.
With the chronological order of the songs abandoned and a sprinkling of alternate unreleased versions, City Of Heartbreak 2 is constructed as a work in its own right rather than just a straightforward compilation. “Inferno” and “Illusion” are two early Nineties pieces of lengthy Ambient Concrète layering and reflective mythological worrying placed in between the older material along with “The Man Who Never Was” (now re-released as a 7-inch on Anomalous Records), a downbeat track which could have come from the contemporary Pink Dots release 9 Lives To Wonder. The same applies to “A Crack In Melancholy Time,” which is an ominously Ka-Spellian reworking of a piece from the same album showing that what constitues a solo release is more a matter of mixing than the norm with other musicians. “The Fool With Spanners” and “Number Nine Number Nine Number Nine Number Nine” close the CD with shimmering, vindictive ennui, and that old favourite, a backwards-looped radio abstraction respectively, completing what in any other hands could be a set of detritus and ephemera, but here is testament to the seemingly boundless creative energy of one of the great musical artists of the underground.
-Antron S. Meister-
This is the first in the Lactamase series of 12 ten-inch records to be released by BLRR. Edward Ka-Spel‘s “Alas My Shrunken Head” is an instrumental which rolls gracefully along on silky liquid rhythms and could easily be termed Ambient Electronica. The samples are redolent of glass marimba percussion, with electronic twists glimmering among the slightly glitchy interjections of reversed, delayed and fed-back textures. With the dissolve into somnolent piano figures, the simple tune is completed in a wistful fade to silence.
The live track from Tony Conrad and Alexandria Gelencser marks microtonal increments as their bows glide in seemingly timeless sweeps from drone to drone. There is a redolent beauty to the sound of meshed harmonics and the physical interaction of rosin and string; Zen stillness in motion, melody in the apparent absence of firm conclusion. Activities of emphasis and passing sideswipes between the players provide dramatic upsurges of progression within the shifting rise and fall. As with most of Conrad’s compositions, this track could happily play indefinitely, forever in a loop as the circles of swept sonority make a delicious buzz like so many single-minded insects swarming.
-Antron S. Meister-
K.C. Accidental – Anthems For The Could’ve Bin Pills
Label: Noise Factory Format: CD
“Saturation helps you breathe” – a quote off the artwork. If what is meant is that saturation of real instruments helps one to listen, then I agree wholeheartedly. This is an intensly Romantic recording. There are only six full songs, nevermind what the track listing says. All six are so rich with music as to be like a big aural birthday cake with all your favourite flavours. Kevin Drew and Charles Spearin in their first effort together use everything to come up with such a lush ambient sound as I haven’t heard in a long time. They incorporate guitars of all sorts, organ and piano and keyboards, drums and steel drums and guest drummers, accordian, trumpet and banjo. They have guests play noise and trombones and more guitars and the sweetest violins. There is a bit of singing thrown in as well.
It all sounds like soundtracks, the way ambient music usually does, but again with the most Romantic twists to it. I think it is the violin of Jessica Moss that really fills out and dominates this collection. The violin brings it all in to sounding like not very sappy lovesongs, love of life and light and sound. What sort of films will this turn up in? Perhaps the ones where the underdog gets his bone and the hero is the most unlikely. The engineering is all nice and makes one to think it might be all done in someone’s home rather than a sterile studio. If music can be invitingly poetic, this is.
I think rather a lot of work and time and heart went into this recording, so I shall put a lot of listening into it over time. Do join me.
Kerosene – Teenage Secret
Label: Caipirinha Format: CD
Okay, first things first. That name. What does that make you think of? Kerosene. Hmmm… possibly someone who’s listened to a few too many Big Black albums; a backroom Albini with all the toys but none of the noise? Think again. Think totally different. Think… think The Black Dog in a lift. Experimental Techno Muzak, to mong between floors. This is “When You’re A Young Girl”, whose “I’ve been on a trip” sample belies its loungey facade, and whose edgy percussion belies its seeming safety. This is, of course, just an opening, and an opening to what turns out to be one of the madder albums it has been my pleasure to listen to recently.
From “Supercrash” on it just gets weirder- like, is that a real time signature? And if the drums are gonna be that fucked, then how the hell do you decide to put a nice bouncy bass on it? And then- what the FUCK was that? Is this the music from a cop show they watch in space, or the music from some video game exclusively designed for trashed people? “Motherfucker” gives us some lovely bass, and more seemingly out-of-synch drums, only this time in a Drum’n’Bass stylee. The result is one of those tracks where you end up concentrating so hard on the details you have no objective idea of what it sounds like overall. Which, if anything, is the defining characteristic of the album as a whole- not in any sense the sum of its parts, this is the kind of album that reclaims the word “eclecticism” from men with hats and beards and gives it right back to the musical dictionary. In many ways, it reminds me of the much-underrated Self Transforming Machine Elves or the aforementioned Black Dog, only (tangentially) jazzier and loungier.
Serving suggestion? Get the ‘flu, right, then drink shitloads of Benylin and have a smoke. Then bung it on for maximum effect. (Do not, however, after consuming half the bottle, go out for a pint in case you end up with a scary whistling in your ears and a 240 bpm heartrate. Oh yeah, then your vision goes funny. Or so I’m told.) But beware- someone may ask you “so what does that Kerosene album sound like, then?”
And then you really will be fucked.
-Deuteronomy 90210 (with additional swearing by badgerspace23)-
(This review wins some kind of award for the most gratuitous swearing in a review here…yet – Ed.)
Kerosene – Woman Quality
Label: Pharma Format: CD
That strapping Pharma lad Roger Kerosene, fresh out of Bommershime and the Zulutronic experience, slips into Electro Dub Funk Breakbeat mode for his second solo album release. The title track itself is a ten-minute groove which morphs mixing deck strokes of analogue slides with more down and dirty keyboard strokes, layered to repetetive perfection and scattered with langorous samples. Is this a bit of a laddish record though, with its pin-up poses? Could be, but there’s no balls-to-the-floor Electro fests on offer, Big Beat style, not even the two-stepping “Axe”; so perhaps it’s on more of a Barry White love machine tip after all, psychedelically sensuous rather than self-aggrandizing, even the Holy Church remix of “Make My Body Rock”.
The trademark House (and Garage and Techno and HipHop) roots of all the Pharma folks’ output are present on Woman Quality – hooks deployed, beats repetitive, melodies cheesy and referencing Kraftwerk no end. As usual though, there’s a simultaneous subversion and development of the more hedonistic body-related electronic genres’ tropes into something greater than its collected influences. While the hands are in the air, so is one eyebrow and the brain is can still be engaged by the moments of vocoder madness, even if the vocal samples sometimes, as on “Women from L.A.”, verge on the profoundly irritating, .
Whatever the problems with this record, it’s ultimately the production, sequencing and sheer overall competence which keeps it head and shoulders above the monotone legions of dancefloor boogie recyclers. Psychedelicised rather than brained by Ecstasy, perhaps? As the closing “Fuck The Rest” cuts a minimal throb, it’s evident that the Pharma posse are in their element when they just don’t care.
Khan – Silent Movies, Silver Screen
Label: Super 8 Format: CD
Seemingly New York’s busiest producer, Can Oral turns his attention to the cinema of pre-WWII Berlin and contemporary Hollywood. The throbbing bass, minimal rhythms and wheezing pulses of the first section is appently meant to invoke the Expessionist chiaroscuro of films by the likes of Fritz Lang or Robert Wiene, developing slowly as an unfolding story based on a restricted sound-palette. As with Giorgio Moroder‘s Electro soundtrack to Metropolis the link between the silent films which marked the bridge between the Industrial and Futurist aesthetic is one based on the vision of mechanistic dynamism inspiring the (loosly) Techno motifs of slowly-evolving linearity and abstracted artful noises.
Unfortunately or otherwise, the connections Khan makes in the music are mostly for his own purposes, rather than the listener’s. Without the juxtaposition of the music with image, there is no obvious reason to associate his tranced-out grooves with either silent film or the American cinema. The latter tracks are potentially soundtrack material (as are the former) – it’s just that there’s no great feeling of what is generaly considered cinematic in music – which is probably a good thing as too much film music is dreadful lush orchestration or OST-linked commercial filler. As music in itself, Silent Movies Silver Screen is actually pretty competent as is to be expected from someone so prolific, switching from the Funkified groove of the “American” tracks to the more stripped-down stomp approach of the “Expressionist” pieces. The trance is the thing here after all, and Khan’s always been good at that, adding and subracting elements of Disco, Techno, HipHop and Ambient as appropriate to make a transition which becomes increasingly more eclectic as the parallels with the progress of his subject matter are developed, however tenuously, over the course of the album.
Khan & Walker – Simplex
Label: Harvest/EMI Format: CDS,12″
Yet another Khan and Walker production, continuing their collaborative work in similar style to 1995’s self-titled release as Radiowaves. Simplex by name, and pretty simple on the surface, the five numbered tracks unfold their plopping textures over and around a cantering beat, with flashes, stabs and shards of abused electronics to leaven the mix. Suitable for either background or deep listening mode, Simplex is an initially undemanding procession of warm beats and almost too-subtle pieces, eminently useable as a repeat-play track while getting on with something other than actually listening to music, but still able to draw attention when desired.
This happens most noticeably around track four, when the duo let their fingers play over the mixer, dubbing echoes and tracks around in the established style, half-acheiving the trick of development without apparent motion. By the end, they’ve got into a well-layered rythmical structure, and anyone who nodded off in the first half will probably be roused with a jolt by the increasing urgency of the beat. Deceptively simple then, but a nifty example of the way to rise from minimal to maximal complexity in five apparently easy stages.
Kid Koala – Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Label: Ninja Tune Format: CD,2LP
Rhythmic music with much instrumentation aside from the Tupperwared breaks that could be construed as “fresh.” Many samples from 1980s ephemera – and it is a strange situation when a culture which was embraced by “nerds” is inculcated into these dopey beats. “Don’t steal” – or, so says the cover, which = much yuks. No reservice on stolen/mysteriously missing copies. Right.
The children of Mao and Coca-Cola? Boris Karloff. Robert Carradine. Pac Man (or Pook Man, Puck Man and his endlessly orphaned cousins). Boy that scratching’ is makin’ me itch. Sorry, that wasn’t part of the review. Much scratching. The dating ritual. And let there be no confusion – this is a highly enjoyable record with which the more erudite amongst the record collectors gathered here tonight shall impress one and all with their highly-developed acumen. Joan Rivers. Cheech y Chong.
One thing that impresses is the sense of Mr. Koala‘s notion that his job is ridiculed – but not ridiculous. How often is that line of reasoning crossed, balanced and fallen over?
Kid 606 – PS You Love Me
Label: Mille Plateaux Format: CD
In the great tradition of remix albums, this is a versioning of the Kid‘s PS I Love You, also on Mille Plateaux. Not being familiar with that release, it’s naturally completely impossible to judge what any of the mixes derive from their sources, but apparently the original was somewhat less chaotic than some of young master 606’s renowned (or should that be infamous?) productions.
Matmos are on the slice’n’dice case with a “Photoshoot” remix of “Twilr”, cpomplete with a recording of them solemnly informing the phtographer that they’re going to be included in the remix. Snappy. The tune pumps under a snicker of snaps and reels off into a delayed hick-stepping shutter speed tune, with possibly just a hint of warped-up banjo and giggles. Atom Heart‘s “Whereweleftoff Fortune Cookie Remix” takes things to the glitchy dancefloor, spinning in the acid squelches to give it that post-modern feeling. Farben, sometimes also known as Jan Jelinek, takes things slower but no less corruptly on his “Kabuki Rock Mix” of “Sometimes”. He blips right down to bit-level modifications of whatever the selection from the (no doubt) several-times removed source material was, and oozes out a tumbling chatter of bloops and bends, all served up on a big Ambient bed of post-Dub bass.
The Pan American approach of Mark Nelson from Labradford is far more sedate with “Unleft”, eliding loops and filigree tones among the whirrs, squeaks and hums of resampled hard-disc fodder to a steadily emergent beat. Rechenzentrum switches course to the “PS I Love You Autobahn,” riding on a pulse regime and smearing around the digital clatter as so much House fodder, while Twerk is on a similar route with a “Drool String Ukelele Mix” of “Whereweleftoff”. This has a more stripped-down essential feel though, with the rhythms gliding across each other at lower frequency ranges for a warmly-enveloping feel, offset nicely by the crosstalk of machines spluttering quietly to themselves. Last remix comes from Electric Company, who reference Buï¿½el for the title of “Together – The Discreet Charm Of Kid 606”, making what is possibly the most off the wall mix on this disc in the process. It’s difficult to describe exactly what happens on this one, but suffice to say it gets quite stimulatingly divergent in its euphoria.
Kid 606 adds in a few bonuses in the shape of two new tracks and some variations of his own, continuing the pick and remix theme in pulse-glitch-tweak mode, spicing generously with virtual echo chambers. Trails of beats become entangled in the software, ticking, trickling even on occasion, into new rhythmic dimensions as dub meets cut and paste, unwinding upon each other in the process. By the time one loop has attenuated itself enough to mark a conclusion, there’s another up the Kid’s record sleeve to get similarly bastardised. In the best possible sense, of course, from the Glitch House of “Horseback” to the jittery Techno wheeze-up “PS I Dub Ya”. This takes the idea of Trance off down a few novel byways into scratchiness at the end of what should be noted is a neatly consistent collection of remixes.
Kinski – Alpine Static
Label: Sub Pop Format: CD
Swarming out of a choppy fuzz guitar chug and a synth which sounds like a jet passing overhead, Alpine Static opens with all the Seventies-inflected riffology any self-respecting Rock band could demand. “Hot Stenographer” spews forth chunky grooves and muscular percussion with all the energy of stoners rocking hard at their best Black Sabbath impression, but there’s a neat twist in the way that the feedback stops time dead for a good while at the midpoint before everything kicks back in harder and louder before the whole band do the same again en masse. Kinski are soon grafting away, proving they can set up a chunky instrumental throb, twirl it around on some deliciously skronky guitar sparks and subtly-applied synthesizer textures before spreading out luxuriously in the confident knowledge that circa 1972 was a vintage set of years for everyone alive then or since, at least in terms of guitar-bass-drums-electronics dynamics.
“Hiding Drugs In The Temple (Part 2)” even opens with a “1,2,3,4” intro, kicking out some energetic jams in the ensuing attempt to drive further along the road movie in every good Americanized kid’s Pontiac dreams, verging on the borders of Nirvana, both those of the state of metaphysical ecstatic grace (often translated as “a blowing out”), and Kinski’s illustrious fellow Seattlites. Thankfully, there are no vocals anywhere on Alpine Static, which would ground the album in too much extraneous explanation – who needs to understand more than the viscous stream of distortion and effects grinding away with joyous energy and a soupçon or three of experimentalism? This is music to lose all sense of space and time (as it is commonly perceived) to, where only the overwhelming Ouroboros riff and its associated rhythmic undertow hold direct, visceral meaning, and some of the track titles say it all: “The Party Which You Know Will Be Heavy” for example, or “Passed Out On Your Lawn”. They sound pretty much like they are described, the latter dissolving into some particularly grand feedback and well-buried flutes worthy of fellow psychedelic travellers Acid Mothers Temple.
Since comparisons are being made, “Edge Set” has some acerbic Shellac-ish bite to its staccato fret-worrying, but Kinski can be pretty subtle too, as the track dissolves into abstract electronic ambience, while “All Your Kids Have Turned to Static” and “Waka Nusa” demonstrate that their quieter deployment of shifting textures can be as effective as the sonic fireworks. The lengthy intro to “The Snowy Parts Of Scandinavia” rises up into a wafting plateau of drones before cyclical guitars preface some gear-change upwellings of distended noise to pep it up a bit. That the piece then segues into a groovy nod to everything Motorik and NEU! is hardly surprising, but welcome nonetheless. The nitrous oxide moments when Chris Martin and Matthew Reid-Schwartz‘s guitars swap propulsive riffs for circling each other in the lower stratosphere while Lucy Atkinson‘s bass and Barrett Wilke‘s drums keep everything on the straight and narrow are especially so.
Alpine Static is a fine release from Kinski, just the sort of thing to keep the borders of Post-Rock and plain old Hard Rock well blurred and fermenting away.
Kirlian – Uninspired
Label: Disko B Format: 12″
Despite the self-deprecating title, parts of this EP are actually quite good. OK, so the noise and beats of “Fantastic” may be pretty tired, but they move in an adequately energetic manner. Maybe it’s the realy quite dodgy Housey stab which intrudes on the up-tempo stomp Kirlain was referring to here. “Let’s See” has an orchestral sweep for openers to justify the obvious quotient – perhaps the compressed snare’s a little dull too? Claps are definitiely passé though, and as for four-four beats or the sequenced Bossanova of “SNTA,” maybe he’s got a point.
As expressions of ennui goes this is acceptable enough, and of course doesn’t try very hard…. The lazy way to review this record is to make constant reference to the boredom motif – quich may put any potential listeners off, which seems an odd if honest way to promote a record. Face it – there’s already plenty of pap out there spinning over turgid dancefloors across a whole range of decadent nations and cities. Tonight, this record could be one of them, but at least it’ll get the odd knee pumping with the stumbling dumb Electro of, er… “Dumb Electro Track” (which even proclaims its title through a vocoder – which is fairly inspired). All right, don’t bother getting this record for the tunes at all – the cut and paste pictures on the record, including one of (possibly) Kirlian’s face superimposed (sloppily) on the head of the anti-hero of Falling Down – are quite disturbingly amusing depictions of discontent on their own.
Klang Abstrakt – Beam
Label: Klang Abstrakt Format: CD
A machine music name clashes here with ultra-Goth graphics, and settling into my cup of Assam, and such heavy atmospheric gloom and noise, I can’t decide which of these things is not like the other. Track the first, “Holy”, starts off promising yet another Dead Can Dance tribute. Diana Leonhardt sings, a little, not sounding like Lisa Gerrard, but feeling a bit like her. I could stand for her to sing some more, but alas, it’s just a tease, except for one tiny refrain.
There is no mistake that this is lovely music, tense with DX-7’s and mellotrons and a Roland or two that sound for all the world like a battalion of drum brigades beating out a foggy funeral march from one channel to another. Klang Abstract relax me right into a floaty, heavy sighed depression, just like when I was 15 and going for the world record at how many times over I could watch the Bauhaus sequence in The Hunger. The problem I have with Beam is that I feel I’ve heard all this before. Creator Riccardo Zimmermann is treading a fine line, ever so close to emulation on one side, imitation on the other.
He is fair, however, in his musical tributes to Industrial/Goth/Post-somesuch, by sharing the flattery among many. Ministry is here, Skinny Puppy, and Christian Death; Einstürzende Neubauten, Ghost, and Popol Vuh too, perhaps even Devo a little. But someone already did all this, and no matter how pretty, or how sedating Beam is, it isn’t all that clever. Mr. Z seems to have mastery over all the nice machines, and I wonder what else he can do with them By track 7, I’m playing with the fast-forward search buttons on the remote and thinking KA could even go Indie-Techno-club-nite if they really wanted to, and took a lot (a lot) of speed. Track 10 is an exclusive bonustrack called “Memories”. Appropriate, as I recall Dario Argento films and find myself wondering what happened to the girl – Diana Leonhardt, not the one from Suspiria.
Although this music turns out prettier than the name implies, and much more bearable than average cover band, I feel disappointed in hearing how it could be better. I will listen to it more, the very next time I have PMS and wish to invoke the darkside.
Klang Abstrakt – Memories
Label: Klang Abstrakt Format: CDS
“Memories” is a CD single to go along with Beam, the full length album from composer Riccardo Zimmermann and singer/artist Diana Leonhardt. Two versions of “Memories”, one (“Drumatic”), the other (“Romantic”) plus another song, “The Journey”. The variance in these remixes is difficult to name, except that the Drumatic is slightly more dancey than the Romantic. Both smack of tubular bells and Giallo horror films, complete with low-level Gregorian chants behind the place where Ms.Leonhardt’s is missing, sorely.
I‘m not sure, but I suspect that mixing really bland Techno-drum machining with really bland Catholic-ish choiring is a bad idea, but they did it anyway, on “The Journey”, for almost five minutes. And Diana still isn’t singing. Apparently she did do the cover artwork, so that’s something; still can’t shake the feeling that these people have more to offer than they are letting on. There is far too much slick production here, with banal results that seem a shame, when someone obviously has a lot of great gear, and plenty of spare time.
Cordell Klier – Apparitions
Label: Ad Noiseam Format: CD
As the title and quotations on the packaging indicate, Apparitions hints at and half-draws traces rather than complete sounds or rhythms. Instead, the shards and fragments of samples and tones which make up the bulk of the sonic elements of this disc ooze from the speakers to a backdrop of disquieting drones. Sharp glitches skitter and breathe in and out while blips stutter or wheeze in somewhat self-contained and mysterious manner.
Is it Ambient? Yes, from time to time, at first. Is it spooky? Indeed, often, and scary too. Cordell Klier‘s microsounds are arrangeded to a surgical level of precision, and both the noises and delicacy of the procedure reference the operating theatre as much as the functioning of disc drive and internal electronic leakage through poorly shield sound cards. Bursts of spluttery digital static slip over lurking presences and beyond into startling volumes and frequencies, and occasional words escape from unknown and vaguely ominous lips – perhaps this is what it sounds like to listen from inside the bitstream of the compact disc itself, to be the actual ghost in the omnipresent machines?
The rise into rhythmic chug is gradual but not entirely unexpected – by the seventh track, matters are rolling along on a loopback groove as the glitchwork picks up into a rainforest of digital birdcall analogues, though a few thousand layers removed from the lush jungle chillout zone of eco-friendly paradisical signifiers. Instead, the whinnies and sniffings of digital (un)nateure are red in tooth and claw, flicking back on themselves with all the lively fun and fear of a nest of virtual laboratory specimens seeking to test the boundaries of their digital environment. Sometimes relaxing, often busily intense, Apparitions is rarely a dull listen thanks to the diversity of process which leads the listener from calm observational excercise to moments of agitated disquiet and eventual twitchy paranoiac state with the possibilty being raised that something is in there for sure…
Kling Klang – Nexus/Apex
Label: Honey/Guided Missile Format: 7″
The Liverpool electronic space death punk trio Kling Klang are making a godawful racket with low resolution keyboards of sometimes dubious vintage: and you should be taking notice. Their “Nexus/Apex” single is one for the ‘Difficult to pigeonhole’ bin. On the “Nexus” side they are joined by Ali Moniack of Firestone: The Legend of the Hawk on drums, it’s a measured forceful geometric clatter of a track and the Klang’s synth assault is more reminiscent of hard rockin’ guitars than the filigree of Vangelis and his ilk. This is not to say that they lack subtlety – but there is something in the measure and weighting of the riffs that suggest that they are being strummed or beat out of an axe rather than a wedge of Japanese manufacturing’s finest. It’s less than three minutes and seems to be constructed from densely impacted material: A meteoric pig iron?
Side two is quite different. The two are like contrasting brother and sister: There is a family resemblance but a world of difference in tone and style. “Apex” is percussionless where “Nexus” is rhythmic and melodic where its brother is harmonic. The piece hangs together around a series of wistful and resonant refrains. Carefully phrased and not unlike some of the futurist pastorales found in the nether regions of Kraftwerk albums. Again, it concludes before the three minutes are up and again there is a sense of wholeness and finality.
This single shows Kling Klang progressing from the vibrant motorism of the “Vander” single onto more varied and experimental territory. These tantalising nuggets suggest that great things might be expected from their debut album.
Klubkuttaz – Kockrock3000
Label: DTrash Format: CD EP
Hmm. This isn’t really my cup of tea. It’s banging, it’s raw, it’s four to the floor if you know the score. It’s that ubiquitous Hardcore mix of utter hedonism, banging beats, fuck you up the arse Rap, cheesy Techno, banging beats, and oh yes … it’s pretty damn banging by the way. Kockrock3000 is in yr face and won’t be ignored. Some of the remixes sound like Hardcore consuming itself. Gurning is obligatory.
I‘m not sure if I like it or loathe it.
Komputer – Market Led
Label: Mute Format: CD
Some arid explorations of what humans and machines can do. These pieces are not unpleasant but equally they don’t lift the top of your head off. I didn’t feel much by the end of the CD except a little bored.
“Joanna” briefly caught my attention with its explosive opening which then segued into some keyboard and imitation bass that hovered, promising something more arresting. And, to be fair, it does develop in a more interesting way than some of the other tracks. But by then it was too late for me, since it was track 7 out of 8. The last track, “Chirpy”, actually starts with some chirpy noises before the beat kicks in but it is an insipid mixture of electronic farting and weedy beats redeemed only by some warm, chopped up keyboard slashes. Perhaps I’m becoming jaded but this is ultimately just too dull to withstand more than a couple of listens.
Label: Mute Format: 12″, CDS
Dissassembled and rebuilt by Cosmic Baby, Memory Man and Komputer themselves, “Terminus” emerges in versions which gradually disance themselves from the obvious Kraftwerk-isms of the original. The song’s repeated vocoder title gets to appear in different guises, while the undertow slips from ambient Trance to drum-rolled pauses and synth passages of an occasionally featureless, generic nature.
Bleeps and analogue squitters feature heavily in the both of the Cosmic Baby and Memory Man mixes, but it’s actually the live version which holds the most interest, the band working some harder mischeif on the previously straightforward rhythms before mutating the song in more pleasing directions. After all that, the instrumental mix of “Komputer Pop” slips back into apparently more familiar territory, but extended (and even improved) with a decidedly Eighties twist. Ah, those revivalists, where can they take their re-jigged Futurism now?
Komputer – The World Of Tomorow
Label: Mute Format: CD
While it would be easy enough to dismiss Komputer as a Kraftwerk tribute band (as no doubt some will), there’s enough enjoymnet to be be found in their synthesis of that band’s sound with other influences to mark their own identity. True, the retro-Futurist schtick has been done before, but rarely so completely. As with other updaters of the German Seventies sound(s), the appliance of both modern technology and old lends a new twist to the naggingly familiar echoes of Düssoldorf’s techno pioneers.
So familiar are some tracks that, listened back-to-back with Man Machine, Komputer’s debut album does occasionally slip into pastiche and copyism, but remains essentially strong enough to stand on its own merits. The upbeat Orientalism of “Singapore”, the liquid blips of “More Automation” and the paen to archetypal man-machine “Bill Gates” simultaneously revel in, and look askance at, the hi-tech, globalised Nineties through a filter of the expectations of two decades past. The concern is with the relationship between present and future, as shown by the intentionally-banal urban pastorale of “Looking Down on London” or the car-fetishism of “Motopia”. However, the Janus-like looking to the past for progression to the future manages to seem simultaneously nostalgic and ironic, which is, after all, not that different to contemporary attitudes to technology.
Konstruktivists – Artist Engineers/(Sold Out)
Label: Jara Discs Format: 7″
The zowie thrump and tickle of synthetic ivories, and the rhythm track haunts a power plant. 7″s like these are wonderful to throw into a mix unexpectedly. Everyone’s forgotten about them, and they’re vastly underrepresented – an ace in the hole that keeps one from sitting on one’s own. “We are artist engineers.”
King Kooba – Nufoundfunk
Label: Om Format: CD
The odd thing about ersatz “soundtracks” is that the musicians generally have the means with which to produce the film upon which they’ve based the music. These sounds race steeped in archetypes – solid, brooding and anticipatory. There are many atmospheres from which to choose but why so few? The bridge between Funk and experimental music was opened some time ago and may still remain open. Who’s going to cross it?
Possible samples flit and weave. Interludes? Quaaludes? Does a recording enter a different kind of scrutiny when it’s associated with film? And what about the mind of the musician? What images does the music mean to transmit? There is a meditative aspect to the groove – a medicated aspect? For health and general overall welfare?
Nufoundfunk ends with the upbeat tone that is somehow simultaneously suspicious – a bright outlook stretching to the horizon that can only be completely appreciated by looking over your shoulder…
Andres Franz Krause (A.F.R.I. Studio) – Goodbye If You Call That Gone
Label: Lucky Kitchen Format: CD
Listening to this, at first, put me in mind of responses to Beckett‘s Waiting For Godot. Nothing happens, it appears, throughout the course of 3 tracks. That’s 30 minutes worth of nothing. So I played it again a few times. What is happening ? On the first track there is a low hum, like a soundproofed launderette when all the machines are on. Or maybe when you pass the outside of a factory where they test silencers for aircraft engines. There are a few other random noises that penetrate this warm fog of sound during its 9 minutes.
Then it’s over and the second piece fades in with a slightly higher pitched drone. Again there seem to be other sounds submerged in the mix, muted and occasionally bell-like. But I’m hearing small, muffled bells here. It is vaguely creepy in this little universe of hums and drones but, by the time you’ve reached the midpoint of track two, you are becoming acclimatised. Track three is a similar soundscape, slightly machine-like, but oddly attractive and trance inducing. It is seduction by electricity, soothing and strangely beguiling. Having hated some recent work by Koji Asano I thought I’d feel the same about this but I don’t. This is hypnotic Ambient music for robots or quietly dozing modems but it is also excellent background music when writing music reviews.
Albrecht Kunze – Testarchiv
Label: Disko B Format: CD,2×12″
All-round radio, recording and theatre producer Albrecht Kunze‘s debut album brings out a blend of syncopated neo-Blues bass explorations, call and response electronics and a particular fetish for the application of chorus effects to the hi-hats. Ticking away like a groovy downtempo funk clock, opening track “Rise” sets the pace with a layered piece of smoothly sprinkled chimes, the aforementioned fretless bass and thankfully no trace of the smugness to which recent users of such instrumentation have been prone (see Mr R. Size for further details). Kunze has breakbeats too, but hardly Junglist – more cultivated, maybe still Jazz but only in the loose sense of free- flowing cycles orbiting a Latinate groove or the willingness to jump out of the linear frame for a while.
Kunze is also an artist prepared to release a record in a yellow ochre sleeve – still an act of considerable daring even in these post-Modern days of kitcshadelic bad taste – and just about gets away with it too. Perhaps the music gets a little ochreous too from time to time: bland with a hint of the wall colour of a waiting room, and about as somnolent. Then along comes a track like “Play It Off” which has all the hallmarks of Eighties producers such as Roma Baran‘s work with Laurie Anderson‘s Mr. Heartbreak (glox, handclaps, ponderous bass and some swirling reedy keyboards) but – and it’s an important but – with some perspective applied from the intervening decade. Even the most dreaded of Jazz motifs, the honking, tonking sax line, makes an appearance, but it’s for the fade-out, so is therefore acceptable.
More handclap-Pop is deployed in the vocal track “Gesangsversion”, which also referes to the skewed Electro songs of Holger Hiller, but despite his best efforts early on to annoy, irritate and lead the hand towards the chin to scratch away the polo-neck, Kunze fails to be either bad or squirmsome in his muso shenanigans. Testarchiv contains much more than the sampling of a blue note or twelve, and in a similar way to Squarepusher, the genial dementia of “Stuntstream” or the cracklingly arch “Futur Futteral” successfully make a new kind of electronic Jazz Fusion. Naturally, it helps that there’s a incrementing, pulsing electronic element from around where “GM 7/11” and “Drowned Under Influence” appear which steadily bring those twin peaks of retroactive good-natured bliss-out and sampling groove, (late-era) Stereolab and Mouse On Mars, to mind. Ambient? Maybe, and Easy too in places, but also whirring with the best of the Electronica posse into a space which is halfway between noodling blight and aural gel wipe, but with neither the over-stayed welcome or soft-focus schmaltz either could imply. Dare it be said in a hyperbolic era, but this is nice – which is sometimes enough.
Michiko Kusaki – Bye Bye. Babe
Label: Angelika Köhlermann Format: CD
Bidding farewell to the stereotyped sweet, slightly kooky image of female Japanese Electronicists, Michiko Kusaki ushers in her own sound of plangent fragility, presented here as twenty-three brief glimpses into a largely unaffected interpretation of cheap keyboardisms and post-Suicide Electro mish-mash. Since this was supplied as a demo tape to the Viennese label set up to promote just this sort of thing (they’d like more, so those interested should contact Angelika Köhlermann), the sound quality is endearingly thin, plain even on occasion, and no less engaging for all that.
Restriction being the mother of invention and all that, Kusaki’s distant vocals, thrumming drum machine and reedy keyboard sometimes pootle, occasionally noodle, drift easily or meander gracefully. The deceptively simple songs shift from insistent chops on the pulse-beat synth drums around bossanova rhythms, two-finger chord boogies, rising burbles from the dawn of the home tape-recording and Casio keyboard days, even featuring that old favourite, the backwards treatment of individual tracks in collusion with snippets of studio-treated tones on the “Let’s Rock Reverse” version of the far from bombastic “Let’s Rock Baby”, itself an achingly sorrowful plea from the mid-range heart of synth-Pop ennui. All this and more reappears as “Let’s Rock Maybe”, the compacted cut of the song which condenses the near-heartbreaking emotion into a slimline reprise.
The track titles give a pleasant flavour of the moods encountered on Bye Bye. Babe: “Don’t You Wonder Sometimes”; “I Don’t Want To Die”; “How Are The Future Days”; “Maybe”… How about “O?k” though? Something coalesces here into what could be the defining track of the album – super short, simple and indefinite about where it’s going or coming from, but communicating everything about claustrophobic desire for fulfilment along the way. Or the sadly vocodered “What You Do”, which is almost enough to provoke tears with its melancholic, half-fumbled melody and broken rhythm. With a bunch of studio equipment and production assiatance this could creep into the same post-Modern electronic precincts as Plone (or Broadcast even), but by no means needs to. By Bye. Babe is perfectly acceptable in unselfconsciously lo-fi form already.
-Antron S. Meister-