Courtesy of the lovely Petter Flaten Eilertsen we received a bundle of goodies from Oslo. Included in the bag are four cassettes on the Kassettkultur label, proudly announcing their return after a “four year hiatus”. Among the releases is one oddity by Jono El Grande, a Norwegian composer who is entirely new to me. On the strength of Der Tod Der Gegenwartsmusik (KULT 016), however, we’re ready to award him the laurel wreath for madcap of the year, given his endearing zany antics on both sides of the tape. What greeted us was two short suites (circa. 11 mins apiece) of lively and demented stuff that freely mixes styles – pop, classical, jazz – with no reverence whatsoever, and a great sense of fun and discovery. In places it reminded us of Frank Zappa, back in the days when he knew how to have fun too; we say that because of Jono’s penchant for speeded-up tapes, strange voice interludes, excessively complex orchestration, and “impossible” speeds for musical performance. It’s possible perhaps that this work is mainly done by sampling and computer editing, but that matters not one whit when you’ve got such a tasty pizza with so many delectable toppings, served to you by a hilarious waiter on roller skates and dressed as a gorilla. Take a look at the cover art…also drawn by Jono El Grande…and you’ve got a strong visual equivalent of the music for your mental stomach to digest. This amiable loon seems to have spent much of his waking life forming “imaginary” bands and crazy music in his own mind, starting with The Handkerchiefs when he was aged ten, and a number of bands that only existed for one night – including The Terror Duo, Black Satan, The Pez Dispensers, and Acetaded Beat – before disappearing in the sky like so many fireworks. Be sure to seek out his earlier releases on Rune Grammofon and Rune Arkiv, if you find this polymath loopiness to your taste. From 19 July 2016.
Herewith the latest three cassette releases from Saint Petersburg’s finest underground label Spina!Rec, delivered here on 10 March 2016. As ever, the editions of physical product are tiny, and collectors of cassettes will have to move fast.
SR023 is a split betwixt Dubcore and Andrey Popovskiy. Dubcore sounds more like it ought to be the name of a label, or a genre, but here it’s an art project which experiments with found sounds and/or field recordings. They offer two pieces under the heading ‘Tea-N-Pepsi’, an endearing latterday cafe society proposal if ever there was. ‘Tuning In’ is a delicious jumble of sources, a fractured radio broadcast. Nothing spectacularly new in the approach of cutting up and random assemblage, but I happen to like the results on this occasion. The creators are genuinely capable of surprising the jaded listener with their juxtapositions and exciting cross cuts. A distinctly urban feel emerges; railway stations, media messages, street sounds, electronic noise, static, and beats. Everything is served up in aggressive micro-second slices, pandering to the minuscule attention spans of our atrophied brains. ‘Theyyam’ by Dubcore feels slightly less paranoid and tense, even admitting the possibility of some pastoral undercurrents, and quieter passages, to the overall mix of unpredictability. Here the listener is intrigued and puzzled. While not as subtle or inventive as the tapes we get from Staaltape and Rinus van Alebeek, Dubcore are operating in much the same area. “Six multilayered tracks full of sounds and changes,” is the description from the website, adding that Dubcore began life as something to do with exploring long tracts of silence. It so happens this tape is the exact opposite of that strategy, and has resulted in a glorious clutter of sonic detritus. A nice one.
Andrey Popovskiy occupies Side B with his 30-minute epic ‘Kryukov’. If credit list rings true, Popovskiy is operating various chunks of hardware for playback of pre-recorded elements (turntable, cassette player, dictaphone, CD player, etc), plus a violin, and e-bow, and additional field recordings. Hard to detect much of this equipment on the finished product, though. It comes across rather like 30 mins of a fellow stumbling about the room not really knowing what to do next, like a lethargic musician trying out ideas, opening the window, or turning the TV on. The recording doesn’t present the music, but documents the event, so that we pick up a good deal of room tone, random sounds, TV or radio in the next room, and general atmosphere of life in a Saint Petersburg apartment. This description may make it all appear infuriating and trivial, but in fact ‘Kryukov’ is a compelling listen. “Different kinds of interaction with environmental sounds,” is how the website describes this episode; “sometimes you can hear contingently appearing sounds of spaces, sometimes it’s prearranged processed recordings.” A lot to explore and get lost inside, varying textures, stories, and effects.
Open Readings (SR024) is a high-minded attempt to reclaim historic culture from the forces of Evil: “Barbarization of content, devaluation of moral and spiritual values and denial of cultural archetypes” are the declared Enemy, though the perpetrators don’t go into more detail about how this pernicious effect is coming about, or who are the agencies wreaking this vandalism. Are they talking about the media, television, movies, newspapers, the internet? I suspect many forces are culpable when it comes to dilution and bastardisation of culture. The retaliation from the Russian underground comes in the form of the spoken word, readings from “works of the best classical writers of the Silver Age”. In Russia, the Silver Age is the beginning of the 20th century, a highly productive time for experimental poetry, modernist novels, and short stories. On the A side, it’s done by Alexander Mashanov & Ilia Belorukov, who on ‘Blok’ (most likely named for the poet Alexander Blok) belt out short phrases and paragraphs, spoken in Russian, of course, as if words were weapons, to be fired like bullets from a gun. Inevitably, this approach soon develops into a clumsy form of rap music, the rhymes chanted aggressively over a clunky drum beat and tepid electro backing. In less than 11 mins, we’re barked to death. On the B side, the readings are done by Natasha Shamina with a musical backdrop by Sergey Kostyrko. Their ‘Vvedenskiy’ is less contrived than ‘Blok’, and instead of rapping the reading is delivered with the accompaniment of a menacing electronic growl, now and then turning into a nasty squeal, and contributing to the overall tension. The sense of purpose in Natasha Shamina’s steely speaking voice is unmistakeable; she may not be firing bullets, but you sense she’s staring at you with a disapproving eye, and is capable of acting as a silent assassin if the situation demands it. I prefer this B side; it makes zero concessions to entertainment, and demands your engagement with the content.
SR025 is another split and represents another chapter in this label’s friendly and ongoing collaboration with the Finnish underground. Umpio is the Finn, from Turku; Kryptogen Rundfunk is the Russian. Both are solo acts. Umpio turns in a typically over-baked stew of sounds on his ‘Rio De Venas, Gusanos, Pulso Insectal, Craneocapsula, Bajo Hielo’, and by typical I mean this is the sort of purposeless over-dubbed melange which the Finns have always done so well. This “cunning sound synthesis” as the website would have it is all done by electronic means, digital and analogue working together for that rich “swampy” sensation. ‘Rio De Venas’ doesn’t really progress anywhere, but as a half-realised vision of an alien world, it’s fairly convincing. Pentti Dassum is the fellow behind this pleasing gumbo, and he runs a record label called Nekorekords and was involved in the mastering of over 100 Finnish underground releases, besides the production of about 40 of his own solo records and split releases.
Kryptogen Rundfunk offer us a live recording from 2015 from a venue or event called ESG-21. Feedback and electronic noise are used to create slow and doomy textures…they lurch gradually out of the speakers like so much tar-encrusted sludge, and the outpouring won’t stop until every available surface is covered in this unpleasant morass. Some occasional nice effects are achieved by Kryptogen Rundfunk’s remorseless execution, but in the final analysis he creates the sort of environment that drives you away rather than invites exploration. Dank, grey, gloomy; saps the vitality of most humans, kills many forms of plant life, poisons the air. Artyom Ostapchuk is the creator of this dismalness, and he has made a few sporadic recordings of his brand of industrial ambient death music since 2004 onwards.
Another exciting Le Petit Mignon release is LPM 16. Its full title is Le Petit Mignon Vs Le Cagibi and it’s a split between Vinyl-Terror & -Horror and Toys’R’Noise. It lives up to its promise of creating a horrorshow experience in sound, and what’s more is presented in a sumptuous silk-screen book with an array of contemporary graphiste artists.
The side by Vinyl-Terror & -Horror is pretty much a scrambled, cut-up version of an abstract radio play. Sound effects, fragments of voices, vari-speeded records and tapes, eerie music, ghastly drone and general strange things are all thrown together in a witch’s cauldron, leaving listener to imagine their own stories. Surreal, grisly humour abounds…but it never tries to shock the listener with intense noise. Rather ‘Inner Dialogues’ sustains a particular mood through its pop-collage method and never once descends into schlock or irony. The people behind this are Camilla Sørensen and Greta Christensen, two Danish sound artists currently agitating the gravel in Berlin, and are among the ranks of conceptual art terrorists who are “rethinking” the art of turntabling. They do it by smashing up old records, then reassembling the pieces of vinyl along with broken bits of plastic or glass junk that don’t fit. They do much the same to old record players, producing grotesque sculptures. They don’t have that many released items in their catalogue, but all of them make playful and punning references to movies and TV. They seem to be more of an art-gallery thing than full-time musicians, and you can see videos of their art installations on their website. Nearest reference point for me would be Michael Gendreau, whose been doing similar things since 1979.
‘Pachitea Aïda’ on the flip is by Toys’R’Noise, a further 4 and a half minutes of menacing, creepy noise. Sounds very mechanical, as if produced by ramshackle machines similar to those erected by Pierre Bastien, but the noise is spliced with contemporary electronic noise and nasty disco beats. Tribal clonking rhythms ensue, redolent of an imminent forward-marching doom brought about by wind-up robots. I think Toys’R’Noise are a French duo who produce all their murky noise with toys and home-made instruments, and photos of their set look like a junkyard or a car boot sale. Which is probably where they pick up their raw materials every Sunday…wouldn’t you love to be married to these two magpies? Not prolific in terms of releases, but there’s a self-titled debut on Tandori from 2013. The band remind us that the toys are just a gimmick, and their real roots remain in “ambient industrial electro”. Great clanking fun on their side, though I personally prefer the more intricate spells cast by our two Danish witches above.
The booklet is an art object in its own right. It opens in the middle like a pop-up book with a simple mountain-fold used to house the record, which incidentally happens to be pressed in blood-red vinyl. Inside are some dazzling images produced by some two dozen creators whose names are mostly new to me (though I do recognise Zven Balslev, and have published his drawings myself). Not sure if I’m intoxicated by the strong colours, the bold graphic techniques, or the shocking and surreal imagery on display, or perhaps the combination of all three. From 9th February 2015.
Update 27th September 2016: Toys’R’noise are a trio (but they sometimes play as a duo).
We’ve heard from Pharoah Chromium a couple of times, most notably with his sprawling double LP Electric Cremation from Grautag Records, which was an intense but punishing listen, something of a slog if you wanted to reach the end of it. I had no idea that the sole creator behind this project, the German-Palestinian musician Ghazi Barakat, also had a political dimension to his uncompromising messages. On Gaza, he makes his intentions more explicitly clear by turning his attention to the Arab-Israeli conflict in general and a 2014 episode in particular, a military action referred to as “Operation Protective Edge”. In doing this, he might be aligned with other musicians who have chosen sides in this affair, notably Muslimgauze and David Opp, whose records Mesarveem Lihyot Covshim and We Are All Terrorists were very extreme examples of sonic protest (and great music too).
On Gaza (NO LABEL), Pharoah Chromium doesn’t go to the extreme lengths of David Opp, but he still turns in two memorably harsh sides of noise and collage. He calls it a “sonic deconstruction and reconstruction”, using terms which aren’t far apart from the sort of language we’d expect to find in a Marxist textbook on radical activist cinema. The record has mostly been assembled from “found sounds”, which means most of its sources are derived from media blitzes. You can expect to hear lots of voice-overs, reportage, and documentary snippets of people telling their stories; mixed with this is the sound of gunfire, drones, vehicles, and anything redolent of a military operation in deployment. The vinyl LP even ends with a locked groove of a drone engine, “to give listeners the experience of the sound of day-to-day life in the Gaza Strip”. Alongside this assemblage, Barakat adds electronic noise to underscore his points, create an aesthetic effect, or simply to disrupt normal lines of thought for the listener.
There’s a real jumble of communication at work here, conflicting signals and contrasting styles of presentation; news reporters trying to appear objective and rational, fighting men seized with a passion and a cause. Where the sound of jets and rockets leaves off and the electronic noise of Pharoah Chromium begins is deliberately left unclear. The enduring sensation as we listen to Gaza is that of chaos, an insoluble confusion. Perhaps that is the message he wishes to convey, or else make a veiled commentary on media reportage of the situation. It’s hard to digest this release, and we’re not let off the hook by the provocative titles like ‘Death In The Making’ or ‘Against Terror’, nor the equally stark high-contrast photo showing devastation and destruction of cities in the Middle East. A private pressing in clear vinyl, 150 copies. From 1st February 2016.
The album Tapes Von Unterwegs 1971-1976 (90% WASSER WVINYL 018 / MOLOKO PLUS PLUS 079) is by Jürgen Ploog, a German experimental writer…it’s extremely unusual and a fascinating document, besides being a compelling listen…at first glance, I thought it was simply a collection of interesting field recordings captured on airline flights in the 1970s, and that’s how I initially approached the strange jumble of disembodied voices, radio static, and fragments of messages.
In fact it goes a lot deeper than that. To begin with Ploog was a pilot, not a passenger – he worked for Lufthansa for 33 years. I’m assuming this means he had direct access to more radio messages than the average traveller. The tapes are partially a document of his travels, but not in a touristy manner; using his portable tape recorder, he captured radio signals, announcements on the plane, voices of passengers and crew, and also fragments from his hotel room and cities overseas – TV and radio snippets by the cartload. Foreign voices, an international survey of jabbering. Media communication, official communication. But he’s certainly not after some banal travelogue effect; rather, this is the impression of a rather restless and unhappy mind. “My life was a series of interruptions,” he writes, “both geographically (outwardly) and psychologically (state of mind) with exposure to different countries and the constant effects of jet lag.” At one level then, he succeeds in representing very successfully this near-delirious condition of his brain, unable to make sense of the multiple layers of information with which he’s bombarded.
On another level, it’s also interesting to hear these documents of assorted bits of old-school hardware – typewriters, telephone dials, aerial televisions badly tuned, interference on the radio…added to which, there’s Ploog’s own portable tape recorder and magnetic tape. Contrary to the smooth presentation offered by digital methods, we have a view of the previous generation of analogue technology and how we used it across the world. This may be just a by-product of the time it was recorded, but it’s still of interest. Ploog was probably more concerned about how these devices were failing us, not presenting clear signals, and wondered if deeper messages were embedded somewhere in the distortion.
There’s a third, more important, dimension…interspersed with the field recordings are recordings of Ploog himself speaking certain texts, perhaps his own writings. The entire assembly of Tapes is thus a sophisticated form of the cut-up, and Ploog is advancing the ideas of fellow Beat William Burroughs (they knew each other very well), looking for the truth to leak out in between the interstices of the edit, hoping to glimpse the future in snatches, and exploiting the power of the tape recorder, and the tape splice, as much as the written word. In this light, it makes sense to see Tapes as an extension of literature, rather than as pure sound art (regardless of how it may overlap with certain Sound Poetry experiments). “Cut-up as a drug that leads to a different relationship with language,” is how Ploog intended this work to function, “just as a hallucinogen leads to an altered relation with the so-called reality. The result is a fundamental shift of meaning.”
The collection before us is a selection made in 2014 by Robert Schalinski, who did further montage and editing. Schalinski is a member of the Berlin art group Column One, whose double CD we recently noted here. This is a very strong introduction to the work of Ploog, who is highly regarded as a seminal figure in the “German-language literary underground”. Along with Jorg Fauser and Carl Weissner, he was co-founder of the small-press zine Gasolin 23 which ran from 1971 to 1986, which featured contributions from avant-garde writers and artists such as Burroughs, Bukowski, Ginsberg and Warhol.
From 30 November 2015.
We received Mad Genius Presents…2012 from Mad Manor Multimedia in Madison WI, creators who call themselves “an anonymous collective of found sound addicts”…the ten tracks on their CD use collaged voice samples from the media and intend to create a global portrait of doom, disaster, and civil unrest. It seems all the sources come from YouTube videos published in the year 2012…the original plan of our plucky subversive team was to create a podcast from these materials, and say something about the “End Of Days” – it seems apocalypse culture is still alive and well, nearly 30 years after the publication of Adam Parfrey’s survey. But the Mad Manor dwellers were convinced they had something even more explosive on their hands, and assembled this album in 2015 in response to what appears to be a significant upsurge of interest from the online community. “It was played and shared thousand of times online”, to use their own expression; the present release is a remastered and “reimagined” version of the original internet piece.
From a welter of news reports, satirical and surreal sound collages have been forged, and set to the thumping tunes of disco beats and synth pop tunes with primitive simplistic melodies, the better to hammer home the messages. Among the subjects under scrutiny are crime and urban decay, race relations, contraception, the judiciary, shootings in schools, hurricanes, the discovery of the Higgs-Boson particle, and politics. Mostly American politics, I might add… It’s one thing to present “a sonic time capsule for the end of days”, but apparently this imminent disaster doesn’t apply to the rest of the world outside of the United States; yet the collages were created “using the world’s social media”, implying a more global ambition. This may simply reflect the near-domination of YouTube by American source materials and American commenters, but it tends to limit the range of this would-be subversive statement; and I find it’s already quite limited by concentrating so exclusively on media reports.
As satire, the device of chopping up the recorded words of politicians so they apparently say something contradictory, or rude, is a very old joke; I can’t say that Mad Manor improve on the formula much. A lot of their jokes fall flat because they’re so obvious – hypocritical media discussions on contraception are an easy target, likewise are most utterances of mealy-mouthed CNN presenters and other brash journalists. Some jokes don’t travel; the minutiae of the madness underlying presidential campaigns has been a perennial favourite of American satirists, lovingly detailed every four years by Walt Kelly’s Pogo comic strip in the 1950s and beyond, for instance; but it always baffles me why they think the rest of the world should care so much about it.
I prefer this album when the targets are less obvious, and the intended message far more ambivalent; for instance, ‘The Adventures Of Hurricane Mike’ succeeds in this regard, and amounts to a slightly creepy and unsettling four minutes of frown-inducing sound art. But there are few such moments; and the album browbeats more than it persuades, delivering its “clever” collaged sound-bites and agitated music with the subtlety of a Bren gun, resulting in a wearying listen. Negativland and The KLF are name-checked as precedents, of course, but I still much prefer the subtle and more humourous approaches of People Like Us. The cover art also plays games; it inserts the impassive, sun-glassed visage of Mad Genius into various real-life photos, thus enabling him to stamp his presence across time and space. This is a fairly obvious diluted version of the image of J.R. “Bob” Dobbs and the whole Church of Subgenius trope. From 13 November 2015.
The album Kindspechleber (EMPIRIC RECORDS EMREC I) by Aalfang Mit Pferdekopf is certainly one of the more perplexing oddities we’re had stowed in these quarters for a while. In terms of previous items sent here, we don’t know much about the Aalfangers apart from their involvement in a Freiband project from around 2014 – he remixed their Mutatis Mutandis album, which itself was composed from Freiband samples. They call themselves a “German experimental sound collage collective” and have been at it since 2004, with their earliest releases appearing on their own AAL label; on the other hand, it might all be the work of one man, Mirko Uhlig, rather than a collective, a possibility which only deepens the mystery.
Kindspechleber is certainly a collaged statement. In places, particularly on side one, I got the feeling it was trying to aspire to the condition of the first Faust LP, with its startling juxtapositions of sounds and ideas – clashing stabs of mundane populist music with profoundly odd arty electro-acoustic drones. Nothing could ever be as innovative or ground-breaking as Faust’s debut, but there’s no harm in treading in the footsteps of its collaging technique. Aalfang Mit Pferdekopf also use a lot of voices here, many of them treated in the studio through filters and distortions to become hideous, sneering, alien; their messages, spoken in German, are quite obscure to me, but you can tell by the underlying tone that all is not well. One might almost call Kindspechleber a troubled post-modern update on Gesang der Jünglinge.
Mirko Uhlig also favours chilling and portentous drones, almost theatrical in their sense of imminent doom, and not too far apart from something a fan of Nurse With Wound / United Dairies records would relish. But he also favours moments of utter naffness, such as clichéd rock guitar riffs and badly-executed moments of heavy metal nonsense, which are inserted in the semi-surreal narrative flow for no good reason – except to irritate the listener, perhaps. Speaking of which, that bicycle bell is pretty annoying too, chiming in randomly as if to punctuate scene changes. Other aural irritants can soon be found as the reluctant listener trudges across the six tracks on offer, and the sense of disorientation and bewilderment will only grow.
It may appear from the above that I am expressing a certain disenchantment, but I liked this odd album; the overall effect is actually quite winning, for reasons I can’t understand myself, and you reach the end sensing that there’s a conceptual wholeness to the strange journey. As well as the names mentioned above, we could happily file this alongside the more perverse moments of LPs by H.N.A.S. or Doc Wör Mirran, both acts which can share a similar preoccupation with collaging near-nonsensical materials into a carefully crafted stream of gibberish, and arriving at a similarly absurdist view of the world, intended to unbalance the mind of the listener. The cover art continues these themes, picking up from the Max Ernst technique of using old engravings as used by 150 Murderous Passions or Bladder Flask (and probably other 1980s Industrial musicians too), to convey here the idea of a modern Ship of Fools. The ship itself is disintegrating, composed of errant fly-away typography, suggesting something about the friable nature of language and the impossibility of communication. From 24 October 2012.
On John, Betty and Stella (MONOTYPE RECORDS monoLP017) the duo of Krojc and Fischerle have built an album around found spoken-word samples, all of them sourced from a collection of English language learning tapes. The duo were presumably quite attracted to the mannered, stagey delivery of the actors on these tapes, as they mouth banal phrases in their plummy accents which, removed from context this way, instantly become cod-surreal vignettes of everyday life. To these elements Krojc and Fischerle add their slightly eccentric electronic bleeps and weedy Techno beats. It is meant to be funny, but the single joke wears thin very quickly, and I can’t discern any traces of the “radio drama” which the creators apparently intended. As I listen I can’t help but think that this has been done before, and much better, by People Like Us – whose carefully woven juxtapositions are far livelier and much more subversive than this slightly sarcastic and wearisome melange. The duo, Jacob Pokorski and Mateusz Wysocki, are both Polish musicians with many aliases, and have assorted backgrounds in sound installation, remixes, and collaborations with other electronica types. From September 2015.
…From Filthy Tongue Of Gods And Griots
FRANCE ICI DAILLEURS IDA074 CD (2015)
The other day I glanced at a comment that the golden age of hip-hop was not the ‘90s but the ‘00s. Having paid relatively little attention to this period in rap history, I read no further, though it struck me that in blatant contradiction of the view stood the post-millennial rap group Dälek, who saw the times as the Kali Yuga itself: A world defined by conspiracy and social disconnection – not unlike our current reality – depicted in phraseology so arcane as to both ensnare and potentially liberate the mind with its marriage of Burroughsian cut-up, unlikely and audacious meters, and some of the most scorched earth beats since Public Enemy brought The Noise. After a relatively ‘conscious’ (but equally impressive) debut (Negro, Necro, Nekros), things really blew up on their second record, From Filthy Tongues of Gods and Griots, which found a sympathetic audience on Mike Patton’s Ipecac label – home to a couple of hip-hop strays like lo-fi vagabond Sensational – where the group stayed till their eventual dissipation in 2009. The album has aged well, hence its reissue on French label Ici D’ailleurs, coinciding with a 2015 revival and tour.
Less militant than their forebears, at times Dälek adopt a similar, though less cleverer-than-thou, approach to contemporaneous art-rap outfit Anti-Pop Consortium: language with obtuse angles and a smooth(-ish) flow, set to the industrial rhythms of Kevin Martin’s Ice, or Techno-Animal circa Brotherhood of the Bomb, albeit with less of the stark, dub-flavoured monotony. The ‘songs’ are encryptions of geopolitical conspiracies, apocalyptic prophecies, the media’s demiurgic sorcery and the reductive influence of globalisation on individual identity, especially education and the calculated misrepresentation of history in the classroom as a means of crippling self- and social awareness.
The lyrics are generally tough to follow, but exhibit a clear motive to Destroy All Rational Thought by overturning hip-hop’s oft-conservative structures/strictures and its ever-facile role as social status soapbox – be it ghetto life or neo-bourgeois bling; redefining it as a forum for metaphysical-rumination in which mind-altering mantra and hypnotic haiku provide the rhythmic underpinning. Among the more radio-friendly couplets we find for instance: ’33 degrees new continents I’m mapping – What the fuck happened?’, which MC Dälek delivers like blood flow. Such feats serve a purpose, just as Gysin and Burroughs’ formulated cut up did: as an attack on conservative power structures and a subversion of language-as-means-of-production. Dälek’s hip-hop could (and still can) silence sceptics and offer proof that paranoids really have all the facts.
Another fine package from Kayaka, the Japanese creator whose delightful, distinctive and good-humoured work has endeared itself to use since 2011 and a run of obscure CDRs, some of them featuring her bass clarinet playing but most of them exhibiting her cut-and-paste skills in constructing new music out of old records, samples, and effects. Her new release has found a home on the London-based Adaadat label, one of the primary sources for imaginative weirdness and quirked-out genius in the UK just now. The nine tracks on Sonic Kitchen (ADAADAT ADA0040) were created in Berlin in 2013, and once again Kaya Kamijo produces a dense, foggy quagmire of overlaid sounds, adding as many layers and rhythms as she thinks she can get away with, before the production collapses under the weight of its own varnish. If indeed she was a cook in a “Sonic Kitchen”, she’d be the kind of baker who can produce an iced cake 30 feet high and covered with filigree icing, producing an impossibly tall and spindly balletic sculpture that apparently defies gravity. Or she’d build a replica of the Brooklyn bridge out of Porterhouse steaks, that you can only eat using a lawnmower. Either way I’d like to think she would serve something more imaginative and appetising than the split hot-dog sausage that appears on the cover.
All of these tunes proceed with the easy-going, walking-pace rhythm that I describe as a “clonking” beat – the opposite of high-speed Techno music or the like, and certainly Kayaka exhibits zero interest in a slick dancefloor production when she prefers calling attention to the mechanics of how each song is assembled. This strategy allows the listener a degree of instant familiarity and comfort, before we’re led gently into the realms of the surreal and the bizarre, as each new unlikely musical element is ushered in, doing battle with spoken-word samples or excerpts from movies. We’re required to follow at least three or more lines of continuous information – a good exercise for the noggin. This time around, one key note or recurring theme appears to be a nostalgia for the past, expressed as old 78 RPM records, including cabaret songs, classical music, and dance music, all cleverly repurposed so as to instantly transcend cliché.
Lesser talents attempting to do similar things with transmuting the history of music into new forms often come a cropper; for one, they use too many samples, perhaps in an effort to convince us of their encyclopedic knowledge, or simply because they have no idea when to stop. For another, they fall prey to the crime of irony, and can’t help sneering ever so slightly at the corny old music our forebears used to enjoy. Kayaka stands innocent of both charges; her sparing use of source material is guided by good taste and an unfailing instinct that tells her precisely when “enough is enough”; and there is genuine affection for the old music she dusts down from the shelves, and she gives it new life in the context of her wonderful concoctions. Enjoy these ‘Pickled Tangos’ and ‘Hungarian Rhapsodists’ today! From 27th August 2015.