Monday, July 27, 2009

Jason Kahn - Vanishing Point (23five CD)

In from Brainwashed:

A 47-minute elegy to his daughter, who passed away two years before work began on the record, this disc offers a slow and meditative take on electronic composition. Combining field recordings with metallic vibrations, static hum and pure noise elements, Kahn is able to do a lot with what appears to be very little, conducting his own orchestra of sound in a piece whose emotional impact is garnered from its barren makeup.

When I say barren though, I certainly mean barren. The work is so slow to evolve in fact that many moments are only decipherable as different upon clicking through the piece's timetable. With this kind of cautious construction, layering the equivalent of vacuum cleaner air drawing upon airplane cabin engine noise, the work evolves slowly enough so as to take its virtually its entire length to entangling itself of each distinct moment. When distant scratches come through amidst the hiss around minute 13 it is nearly revelatory, being the most distinguishable sound yet presented. A soft hum around the 17 minute mark grounds it somewhat, imbuing it with a distinct direction for the first time, though that direction is surely a circuitous one not so much bent on arriving anywhere so much as one settling in to the old mental garden.

Yet the changes do happen, and the patience with which they do so rewards a concerted listening effort. Metal-on-metal clatter subsides in the mix almost half of the way through the work's length, sounding like a mini Gamelan orchestra playing from inside a wind turbine. Volumes are delicately adjusted, allowing details to come to the fore that, whether always present back there or not, feel to be coming from the same organism, drawing itself out through the most minute adjustments in color.

There is a sense of urgency in the latter half of the work, if only in contrast to the first half. It becomes less static and busier, with sounds rebounding around the space and jumping out from the singular static that started the work. Still, the consistency of sounds being as they are, the result is not so much busily seeking anything as it is teeming beneath its own weight, its super-heated molecules bouncing together without losing the general forms they inhabit.

It isn't until about half an hour into the piece that snippets of a discreet melody appear, though these too are so fractured as to become part of the general landscape, tickling the outer reaches of the hum with brief splashes of color. These flurries of notes not only tie the piece inward, setting the outer boundaries of the hiss buildup, but they also signal the piece's movement toward a more mechanistic and gestural sound for a time, one that has momentary flashes of a daily movement removed from the ethereal space of the work as a whole.

The final ten minutes find the work slipping back to its origins, decomposing until it is only the crackle of burning wax and a gentle airy breath of tone. Dense though it may be, the work is quite well situated and wisely done, uncompromising in its enactment without lacking beauty or finesse. There is likely no knowing just how this recording relates to its subject matter—certainly it is not in any linear manner representative of it—but there can be no doubt that this is a highly personal and well phrased statement from a musician with his ears on a singular form of sound composition.

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