Maximum Frog

Benign and mysterious cosmic tones issue from the magical hands of Benjamin Finger, James Plotkin and Mia Zabelka on their Pleasure-Voltage (KARLRECORDS KR061) album, two sides of uncategorisable music of a highly maximal nature, meaning there’s plenty of event to crack the tusks of your listening boar…while on the surface these lengthy sprawls may appear as undefined blobs, shapeless and nebulous even, there’s a guiding mind at work that resolves all the primordial soup into satisfying shapes by journey’s end. I suspect this guiding mind is that of Finger, B., a somewhat multi-media active fellow who happens to be based in Oslo at the hour that my typewriter clacks its merry way. Films, photos, DJ events, compositions and electronic music production are all valid outlets of expression for the impulses heaped up in his teeming brain, and one connecting technique between all of these may simply be that of collage. He’s a cuttin’, slicin’ man…I would be prepared to believe that Pleasure-Voltage is a mass of seething energies, drones and instrumental fragments (including tiny snatches of wistful piano fugues) all stitched together by the method of editing and splicing.

It’s also to Finger’s credit that he’s enlisted two major talents, Plotkin and Zabelka, to contribute their unguents and spices to this particular other-worldly picnic. Plotkin’s dark ambient credentials from the 1990s, especially his association with Scorn, make him a perfect addition to the plan, but let’s not forget his darker and more aggressive guitar-noise side (e.g. Khanate), of which a flavour does occasionally seep to the surface at certain sinister moments on these murky grooves. As to Zabelka, we’ve long been entranced by her superlative performance skills on the electric violin, although on early spins of this layered psych-a-tron dream-machine I’m unable to discern precisely where her wonderful bowing actions have been deployed, still less where they have landed. Perhaps her native sound has ended up somewhat denatured in the full-on baking kitchen that is Finger’s studio, a transformative zone if ever there did be. I would like to think Zabelka is no stranger to these sort of envelope-stretching assignments, and not one to cling to purist notions of free improvisation contexts.

It’s great that her credit list also includes “alien objects”, a credit also assigned to Finger, which indicates that we are directed to perceive this release as a cryptic message from beyond the stars, an ancient alien artefact on a par with the pyramids and the Nazca plain artworks. Certainly this is the view proposed by the cover artwork, a visual concoction by Svere Malling that draws out the hidden power of natural forces contained in frog, butterfly, roots and such, by juxtaposing these elements with a Bridget Riley-styled disc of op-art. More simply, it’s a visual clue to the desired “mesmerising” effect of these layered drones and instrumental passages. From 10th December 2018.