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EKG - No Sign

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Artist: EKG

Album: No Sign

Label: Sedimental

Review date: Sep. 11, 2005

Microscopic fragments, a most intimate orchestra – inhalation of breath, lips pressed down upon the mouthpiece and the dancing movement of fingers tapping on valves. EKG’s creations are partially built around the sound of human bionics: instruments that play instruments. Kyle Bruckmann and Ernst Karel blend a combination of traditional and extended techniques on oboe, cor anglais and trumpet that are subjected to a range of non-digital electronic manipulations. But the moment where one element ends and another begins is hard to distinguish, as all the ingredients become blurred in EKG’s organic sound tapestries. Darkly atmospheric tones linger beneath a host of shrill squeals, glitches and static debris that teeters with menace upon the brink of punitive white noise.

But EKG are skilful enough to keep the apocalypse in check, never allowing the sparks to catch light, constantly shifting position before the ground gives way. It’s as if Supersilent abandoned their Miles Davis quotient for a pinch of AMM, or Matmos totally renounced their love affair with club culture. Like these two groups, EKG employ traditional means as a basis for creations more usually identified with the field of electronica. The disparate elements work particularly well on “Days” (each track is titled after a measurement of time), where a subtly oscillating generator drone lurks in the near distance as Karel’s plaintive trumpet cry wails amid the analogue fog.

Although No Sign relies heavily on free improvisation, it manages to avoid many of the pitfalls associated with that method (often akin to driving out of a cul de sac without a map and on an empty tank). In fact, the closest comparison could be the micro-compositional works released on Bernard Gunter’s Trente Oiseaux label. But for all the reference points, EKG’s voice is fairly distinct and, more importantly, one that still has plenty to say.

By Spencer Grady

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