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Listed: The Kallikak Family + EKG

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Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists compiled by our favorite artists. This week: From Chicago's fringes, The Kallikak Family and EKG.

Listed: The Kallikak Family + EKG

The Kallikak Family

In the relatively small world of drone/noise/etc.-bent music, one of this year's less likely success stories is that of the Chicago->Portland->Santa Cruz-based Kallikak Family. Identified only as 'he', and based around the apparently aribtrary date of May 23rd 2007 (after which their recent album was named), the Kallikak family seems to be heavily influenced by blip-bloop-bloppers like Black Dice, but with a droney, melodic penchant that tends to stray closer to the Stars of the Lid end of the spectrum. May 23rd, 2007 is available now on Tell-All Records. His list is appropriately abstract.

1. Gerhard Richter
In 1964, Richter wrote, in a note to (and about) himself, "painting from a photograph seemed to me the most moronic and inartistic thing that anyone could do." I think that's a pretty brilliant thing for someone who paints photographs to say.
Of course, Richter also painted giant gray canvases, mind numbing seascape collages, color-charts and bad '80s abstract expressionist art. (Like what is at the dentist's office.)

2. Cheaper by the Dozen (2003)
This is an awful film. But, director Shawn Levy actually has the audacity to claim that Tom Cochrane's ubiquitous early '90s rocker 'Life is a Highway' is an "undiscovered gem" that has "never appeared in a movie before." Levy admires himself for having the courage to set a heart-warming montage to 'Classical Gas,' and says that "nobody has ever seen Steve Martin play a banjo before."
Levy's director's commentary is probably the most incredible piece of audio I have ever heard.

3. Walter Murch
The second best audio exists on the "Special Edition" DVD release of THX 1138, which offers viewers a chance to watch the film accompanied by the 'Theatre of Noise' -- essentially, the soundtrack to the film, with all dialogue removed. Hearing the film in this way is highly recommended, as it reveals the supreme aural craftsmanship of Murch and composer Lalo Schifrin. Murch's genius is further revealed in a series of interviews, in which he explains how he came up with these delightful sounds. 4 out of 5. Highly recommended.

4. The camera obscura
Developed in the 1600s, the blah blah blah direct sunlight through an aperture carved in the side of a darkened portable room, blah blah blah, when the sun hits, revealing epic battle scenes, panorama-like views, etc.
When it's cloudy, you see nothing.

5. A lack of musical references.
Now we are at the halfway point, and this list has already been consumed by the cumbersome weight of its non-musical references. I might continue this thought later.

6. Adam Forkner
Adam Forkner is a musical reference.

7. Kierkegaard's "leap of faith" (guest writer Kevin Erickson)
"For Kierkegaard, man's purpose is to become a choosing, acting, being.The greatest choice of man is for God-an irrational and unfounded leap of faith. To choose such a path is to choose overtly an irreconcilable absurdity, and it is for precisely this reason, Kierkegaard argues, that the leap of faith contains such marvelous power. This sense of man as an animal motivated by passion to an irrational pursuit is an intriguing insight, as it theoretically leaves the door open for leaps of faith into literally any grand absurdity. Moreover, our belief in the absurd necessarily separates us from other animals, as creatures acting solely upon instinct are incapable of committing whole-heartedly to contradictions (indeed, they are unable to recognize them at all). The ability to believe in the absurd, then, is an exclusively human faculty."

8. Here's where I admit my list is all too predictably esoteric Then I write something here.

9. A return to musical references
Adam Forkner, Scott Tuma, PubeMan77, Cage/Reich/Glass/Riley/Eno - clearly everything after 1967 and before 1979, excluding '72 and the entire Aerosmith catalog.

10. Conclusion / Downer
I hate Aerosmith. I hate Lynryd Skynyrd. Pink Floyd sucks. So does John Cougar and "Fish." Pretty easy targets. Nonetheless, worthy repositories for the disillusioned hatred of my generation.


EKG is Kyle Bruckmann and Ernst Karel. The Ernst and Kyle Group formed during the late 1990s in Chicago. Their first recording was the EP Shift or latch on Crank Satori (2001), now out of print and available as MP3s (ekg.klingt.org). 2003 saw the release of a full length album on Locust Music's Object series, as well as tours of both the East and West coasts in the US. Their newest album is No Sign, released earlier this year on Sedimental (sedimental.com). Bruckmann also has a new release with Lozenge, entitled Undone, available from Sickroom Records (www.sickroomrecords.com). An EKG trio album with Giuseppe Ielasi, recorded during their tour together in spring 2005 of the Northeastern US, is in preparation for the new Formed Records label (www.formedrecords.com). Bruckmann is now living in San Francisco and Karel is in Berlin.

Instead of collaborating on a list of 10, we decided just to split it.

Ernst Karel:
Limited to just five, I thought I'd list 'music' music instead of 'sound' music (not that the distinction is real) --

1. Gagaku - e.g., Gagaku - Court Music of Japan (JVC)
This music absolutely blows my mind every time I hear it, as it did when I was first exposed to it probably 15 years ago. Although it probably isn't usually theorized as such by musicologists, it seems to me somehow to present a recognition of the absolute suffering of human life - like a lot of the music I end up being interested in.

2. Booker Little - Victory and Sorrow
Amazing compositions. Richness and tension in his close horn arrangements; beautifully sad harmonic and melodic sensibilities in his writing and in his trumpet improvisations. He's one of the first names that comes to mind when people ask me about trumpet players I listen to. Another is Boban Markovic.

3. Morton Feldman - Clarinet and String Quartet
We (EKG) happened to be listening to this piece repeatedly just before playing a show in LA, and ended up with a half-baked idea of trying to carry its sensibility into our performance that night - I think as it turned out we probably ended up being more raucous than usual.

4. Idjah Hadidjah - Tonggeret
Particularly astounding example of Jaipongan music from Indonesia. The low gong which finally resolves each long rhythmic cycle is devastating.

5. Melvins - Bullhead
Needless to say --

6. Kunnakkudi Vaidyanathan - Violin & Thavil
I noticed I listed mostly slow music so I thought I'd add this fast, extremely mathematical music. Kunnakkudi is my favorite Karnatak musician, he's really out there -- especially his duo recordings with Valayapatti AR Subramaniam on tavil, a drum from the South Indian temple music tradition which is much more hard-hitting than the usual mrdangam.

Kyle Bruckmann:
1. Einstürzende NeubautenDie Zeichungen des Patienten O.T.
After cutting my early adolescent teeth on new wave and hardcore, the discovery of industrial was what really made me feel I’d found a home. The mixture of such relentless timbral exploration with a more androgynous form of aggression and angst meshed beautifully with with my teenage histrionic tendencies, halloweeny orientation, and self-perceived boo-hoo otherness. I distinctly remember the night I first heard Neubauten and Skinny Puppy back to back on the local college radio station – the very next morning, with my dad’s help (how’s that for a Cleaver moment?), I started hanging rusty pipes from the ceiling in the basement and beating them with hammers... and I’ve never fully recovered. (and oh yeah: my first girlfriend gave me this on vinyl xmas of '86. sniff.)

2. Dog Faced HermansHum of Life
DFH were a mid-college wake-up call for me, demonstrating that propulsive noise could be utterly joyful rather than macho and snarly. No other "rock" band at that point had ever given me the overwhelmed elation typically reserved for things like Qawwali and Mahler. My progcore-wrecked analytical mind still reels at how something so structurally simple can be so damn satisfying, so dissonant and yet so catchy – how music so utterly unindebted to rock’n’roll can rock so hard.

3. Amoebic EnsembleLimbic Rage
Upon first hearing this album, I thought I’d discovered an evil twin in Providence, RI-based ringleader/accordionist Alec Redfearn – this was music I’d been trying (and failing) to create for years. Dinky, rollicking, cock-eyed circus music, complete with faux-gypsy melodic convolutions, three-legged dance rhythms, pots & pans and even a bassoon for good measure.

4. Birthday PartyJunkyard
This album still flawlessly embodies the dark side of what I seek from rock and roll (as opposed to, say, the energy of the sputtering, horny, awkward dork perfected by Devo and updated by the likes of Ex-Models): cartoonish excess, wide-eyed mania, predatory feline swagger, cackling black humor, spectacle and "danger."

5. Jonathan ZornFor Rob Powers, Suite No. 2
I feel obliged to list something less tangentially related to EKG’s aesthetic territory, but rather than name-check (and have to choose between!) more obvious comrades (z.B. efzeg, nmperign, Polwechsel, Kevin Drumm, Giuseppe Ielasi, psi, Jason Soliday, Olivia Block, TVPow – there, ha! I got some in anyway) I’d like to use this rickety bully pulpit to mention something I seriously doubt enough people have heard. No, not THAT Zorn, and no they’re not related thank you. While his projects teeter dangerously close to conceptual aridity on the surface, the results tend to somehow remain engaging, visceral, and playful. The process on this outing is a module-by-module exploration of additive feedback on a Doepfer synthesizer, adding a new box (and source of instability) with each track. Track one is the sort of now all-too-familiar eyeball-popping ultra-high frequency sine tone endurance test that I’m not supposed to admit I can’t friggin stand, but thereafter the album is deliciously awkward and utterly baffling. While the proceedings inevitably have the feel of real-time research, the impact is not so much of watching numbers being crunched as of attempting to communicate with an alien life form.

By Dusted Magazine

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