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COH - Strings

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Artist: COH

Album: Strings

Label: Raster-Noton

Review date: Nov. 9, 2007

As Coil could rightly be deemed to have produced sounds amounting to much more than mere music(k), one could argue that their protégé Ivan Pavlov’s explorations of glitch-based electronica go far beyond the self-imposed constraints of that sub-genre.

But with his latest release, Strings, Pavlov, a.k.a. COH, seems to be re-joining the flock, combining the organic (grand piano, guitar, saz and oud) and digital in a way not dissimilar to those compositions by, say, Fennesz and, especially, Raster-Noton’s head honcho Carsten Nicolai. Indeed, the first section of this double disc set, entitled “Sidereal As If Not” is remarkably reminiscent of Nicolai’s Alva Noto project’s ongoing series of collaborations with pianist Ryuichi Sakamo.

During the piece’s opening stages, Pavlov’s piano notes seem almost haunted, each followed by a vaporous software trail before segueing into the work’s more firmly structured conclusion, a distinctive melodic pattern underpinned by futuristic throb. Pavlov’s choice of piano as a sound source follows years of lessons on the instrument as a child, but surely his teachers never envisioned that their ward would eventually come to produce this.

Throughout Strings, Pavlov’s artistry is in full view. His selection of notes and electronic accompaniment is faultless, his placement of architecture quite impeccable. On “No Monsters No Rock,” Pavlov retraces his formative experience in heavy metal, using treatments of recordings taken from his beloved red musima elektra de luxe V guitar, sculpting them into vigorously undulating forms. The results are akin to the wild oscillations buried deep at the heart of Clint Mansell’s sumptuous π soundtrack or possibly even a stripped bare Cornelius composition, as the distinctive tones of his instrument are ground down to a mulched pulp.

But Pavlov saves his best for last with the final track of the first disc, “Euphrates,” and the sole piece included on the second disc, “SU-U.” On the former he summons the sun-soaked souks of the Middle East with the deployment of saz and oud, harnessing them to a spectral raga, punctuated by fiery pulsar stabs and propelled by a tinnitus-like hum. It’s as if Ostad Elahi were abducted by a swarm of angry Daleks. The latter piece is more restrained, but no less effective, a transcendental meditation on the vacuums that inhabit all the in-betweens.

By Spencer Grady

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