Toxic Beach Party


Old Komm
Ventspils EP

Latvia’s sixth largest city, Ventspils, has been a shipbuilding history that goes back to the Sixteenth Century. The port’s ice free harbour still makes it an important transportation hub today, so a record which presents electronic music derived from field recordings made in various locations around Ventspils promises a vaguely maritime listening experience, or so I first thought. This is not the case. I failed to recognise any obvious sounds derived from water, ships, heavy plant, cranes and so forth.

An intriguing 12” ep here. Old Komm declare the presence of field recordings, broken synths, found sound and church pipe organs. The first side is peppered with vocal samples like “no other attempt was made” and CITE. Tones could have been supplied by machines from a dental surgery or the cardiology ward of your local hospital. Vintage voltage-controlled synthesisers boosted with Warfarin. The beats are minimal and sullen; they seem from another world on this side, helping as they do only to propel the sinister bass frequencies. After this, there is an interlude with what sounds like the auto-accompaniment feature on one of Leslie Crowther’s massive old one-finger Kimball home entertainment keyboards.

But then things get a bit more abstracted.

From the robot cat purr paired with feedback samples played on a broken midi keyboard on an ironing board for a stand (perhaps) could be the source of the following musical development here – and musical it certainly is – despite their heavy use of samples and field recordings, these sources are arranged in a similar way as if they were traditional musical instrumentation.

Digital water drips, digital cowbells patter, handheld digital hard-drive recorders capture rain splashing on hot tin roofs. What’s interesting here is that Old Komm have an undoubted talent for production; for example, there are some cheap-sounding general midi-type sounds here but they are buried so low in the mix that their very nature is changed from the banal to the exotic. More vocal samples but detourned this time around – only vaguely reminiscent of human speech. A colossal, possibly the world’s largest, Leslie Rotary Speaker eventually comes to rest in a power cut while a Soviet politician rants and a “choir of angels” synth preset (038 on the Roland JV1080 or similar), while a car politely beeps its horn. Something extremely low-end attempts to shred my speaker cones before the sounds of waves breaking on a beach merge with the sound of fluff on the needle on a run-out groove (not mine – I checked), in a kind of post-apocalyptic beach party for the infected.

As I turn the record over, I’m expecting more of the same on side B, but am surprised to discover a completely different view of the city.

More heavy on the field recordings, but this time heavily processed and with a melodic low-register element hung off them. Its clear field recording techniques have been employed in the pre production, but the result is open, narrative and cinematic only without the detail and verve of Mecha/Orga or David Velez, for example. But these are perhaps unfair comparisons – Old Komm present themselves as an electronic act and not field recordists exclusively.

The nicely laid out sepia-toned cover is festooned with detailed photographs by Sergey Gorsky of Ventspils port itself, and the inner sleeve displays a series of shots of the interior of a ruined building presumably somewhere therein.

A vinyl edition of 250.



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