The Harrowing of Hellstorm

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Martin Küchen
Hellstorm (Man Erkennt Langsam Das Elend, Das Über Uns Gekommen Ist.)
POLAND MATHKA MTHK08 LP (2012)

Martin Küchen is an avant sax tactician and genre-free spirit hailing from Sweden, who’s been active on the home and European stage since the mid-nineties, where time served with combos such as The Trespass Trio, Angles and the nattily monnikered Exploding Customer has been supplemented by his work in the film/theatre and sound installation spheres.

The Hellstorm l.p. is his latest offering and is based on the artist’s reflections and gut reactions to the Thomas Goodrich book of the same name; which documents, to a totally mind-reaming level, allied war crimes perpetrated during the latter stages of the second world war. And any take on that, in any artistic shape or form, is one seriously heavy remit, especially as this live recording (at Lund, Sweden), is a purely bare bones solo work, employing saxes, radio, electronic tampoura and electric toothbrush (!).

The opener “Allegmagne Année Zero” (Hellstorm) with its mournful baritone sax curlicues and tampoura haze is surely the sharpest in relief. But the sequence of pieces that follow; from “The Russia we Lost” to “Ritual Defamation” (to Laird Wilcox), slowly descend into a will’o’the wisp- endorsed intangibility that’s due to Martin’s otherworldly technique that’s allied to a mind which continually thinks outside of the sax. “Sarajevo” has brass plumbing that strangely mimics the Japanese Shakuhachi, while the fluttering noises that crowd out “10,000 Jahre” could easily be mistaken for the magnified wing-beat of a moth trapped in a forgotten corner of some derelict, echoey basement. Every last pinprick of sound, every window-condensating atom of lung spume is expertly captured. Full marks then go to mastering/recording maestro Jakob Rüs, who would appear to have the sensitivity of a pair of Mount Palomar observatories.

So…after the stylus makes that very last revolution, it’s blindingly inevitable that adjectives such as bleak, oppressive, desolate and harrowing are rolled out, their wonders to perform. But I ask you…how else can you paint a picture in sound of the very lowest point in twentieth century?? Perhaps the lowest point of all?

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