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K-Space - Going Up

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Artist: K-Space

Album: Going Up

Label: ReR Megacorp

Review date: Jan. 31, 2006

The notion of playing with sound, of stretching, shrinking, expanding, manipulating or otherwise torturing sound to appease what seems to be a hedonistic pleasure in doing so, has long ceased to interest me. All the better that K-Space’s new disc really offers something extraordinary; I was totally disenthralled with any descriptions of it I’d heard and read. Ah, another group layering sound and environment to create a layering of sound and environment to achieve trance-like states… The only thing that peaked my curiosity was that drummer extraordinaire David Kerman was putting it out on his label.

Throughout my first spin, I kept thinking that New Age was absolutely a fitting term for this music – new age as I’d always imagined it should be, as the phrase qua phrase implies. It’s a disc that merges the technical prowess of free jazz’s aftermath with the dreamiest ambience, all expertly shot through with field recordings and a startlingly and fluidly complex take on “the beat.”

I can’t stress enough that despite several jarring cuts and radical shifts in soundstage, fluidity is the group’s achieved aim. Boundaries are blurred, between acoustic and electric, between instrumental and concrete recordings, between voice and instrument. Such simultaneities befit a group of musicians/anthropologists seriously dedicated to the study of Shamanism, trance and related pursuits. Their lead singer, Gendos Chamzyryn, is a Tuvan throat singer and a master Shamanic musician, while multi-instrumentalists Tim Hodgkinson and Ken Hyder’s first trip to Siberia was in 1990, recordings of which appear on this disc. Suffice it to say here that the wildly improvisatory yet strict compositional dichotomy that Hodgkinson brought to legendary 1970s band Henry Cow is still as prevalent as HC fans might wish. This is not a disc for background or for simple trance induction, although every moment is spellbinding.

“Wolf”, the opening track, separates this disc so far and so completely from K-Space’s earlier work as to be disconcerting. It begins with a jolt, transparently deeply resonant pluckings and percussion atop layers of delicate electronics and … fire? The entrance of vocals, complete with the now ubiquitously guttural and overtoned Tuvan sound, provides a whole other set of layers that emerge in different listening environments. The resulting sonic landscape would be a muddle without brilliant compositional aesthetics at work, which come even more to the fore when the complexities are suddenly interrupted, monumentally, almost cataclysmically, by a bit of everyday speech, maybe recorded outside. Air, or static, or some combination, saturates the listening space, just as later in the disc, completely different sonic environments, self-contained but conjoined, mesh to create an illusion of dual temporality.

Some of these temporal triggers are obviously taken from concert events, as is the one that begins “Black Sky”, a mind-warping jazzily street-smart romp suffused with groans of hip hop-infected industriality. “Yellow Canal” presents melted instants of the airiest drone arising from another simple verbal exchange. When beats emerge, they are temporary, disjunctive and almost immediately absorbed again into the miasmic swirls, poignantly beautiful and somehow unsettling, that permeate the album. It’s too cool for IDM, too hot for trance, too formlessly simple for jazz and too formal and structured for improv. Maybe that’s why I enjoy it so much.

By Marc Medwin

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