How many records or compositions have taken the existential essence of the cactus as their theme? Kaktuus is one (perhaps the only) such; and on the evidence of the album under consideration here, perhaps kakofoNIKT had the Agave americana particularly in mind. It’s certainly a psychedelic experience from the opening minutes, evolving into a surround-sound trip where garbled, guttering voices extemporise and vocalise without words and electronic and other sounds click, whirr, ping and chirrup across the soundscape at varying paces and levels of intensity.Kaktuus bears occasional comparison with the likes of Eskimo, where The Residents imagined up a soundtrack to the life and times of the Inuit, or some of Thomas Köner‘s explorations of the Arctic entirely through the medium of drones and brushed gongs. However, Kaktuus take a less ambient, descriptive route and opts for a more metaphysical approach. Pulsations, ridiculous BPM drum-machine passages, woodwind calls and the clink of metal, piercing oscillator tones, creakiness and the rattle of something – there’s a memory of :$oviet:France: in their atypically demented days (did anyone ever want some sheaves?), a heavy slathering throughout of Nurse With Wound, a dash of HNAS plus a soupçon of P16.D4 at their most collectively surreal and often downright fried here, with a braying ney calling upon bou jeloud as kakofoNIKT plunge further into the body of the cactus. This is a trip, but not a blissed out, cloudy-floaty one; it’s far more the sound of the brain being rewired to cactaceaen frequencies, of a vegetable consciousness merging itself with the human workings of the listener as the peyote subjects the mystically-inclined parts of the mind to its chemical charms.
But this is no world-music sampling, Goa beach trance party-friendly meshing of machine beats and faux-tribal loops with the sound of amphetamine happiness expressed through the medium of exotic chants and soaring synths (though there are in fact some powerfully-realised operatic vocal layers, but they appear in highly modernist form). Far, far from it (and it’d be interesting to see the reaction of such an audience to the far-out sounds on offer here). Kaktuus is on an organic t(r)ip, one which seems more like a soundtrack to accompany the deconstruction of identity and its reassembling in various archetypal and symbolic guises. The visions which the scurrying, clacks, mysterious interjections and moans provoke tend towards the unheimlich, shifting scenes of abstracted environments morphing with a tweak or a grind into the echoing innermost wails of the subconscious rising to the surface.None of this is explicitly stated, of course – that’s purely conjectural, experiential and contingent on the interpretations formed by letting Kaktuus do its thing, to work its occasionally obscure effects upon the furthest recesses of comprehension and listener response, sometimes through the medium of extreme repetition. There are infrequent moments which resemble music in its more conventional modes, as when a treated hurdy-gurdy loops and turns among the drone accretions while a bastardised saxophone heaves and words are uttered, if not for comprehension then perhaps to promote a particular mood – or simply to freak the addled listener out. Kaktuus could be conducting an electro-acoustic shamanic ritual as the bones are shaken and the rods and cones of perception shift colours and meaning accordingly; because there surely must be some synaesthetic effect in the right circumstances, on the right drugs. Where the practitioner might end up, with which totem they might find themselves aligned is open to speculation; but it’s fairly certain it would be one which likes its mezcal murky.
Mind out for the worm at the bottom of the bottle.