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Ken Ikeda - Merge

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Artist: Ken Ikeda

Album: Merge

Label: Touch

Review date: Jan. 14, 2004

Sounds that will ring your ears and jar your mind; audio artist Ken Ikeda sculpts with both harsh primal sonic textures and gracefully delicate compositional tones. Merge is set within gorgeous Digipak packaging, featuring images by Touch photographer Jon Wozencroft, a beautiful photograph of two isolated islands and a park set amidst New York skyscrapers; an island of a different sort. Listening to Merge is like walking into an art gallery and being confronted with delicate sculptures in Spartan surroundings. The long seconds of intermission between tracks are like blank walls that make the works all the more pronounced and stark.

Merge actually began as a sound diary Ikeda kept since 1990 that grew to fill over 140 tapes. Ikeda distilled this vast sound library down to a meager 11 tracks. It certainly must have been a difficult process to decide what to discard and what to select. Though Ikeda claims in the liner notes that he wanted to create music in an unconventional way, he never elaborates on the actual process of making his sounds.

The majority of Merge is austere with sounds akin to a T.V. test pattern, or when someone whacks a tuning fork. The first few tracks are nothing more than a resonating drone, but a closer listen to subsequent tracks reveals more is going on behind the main sound. While the drones lack any sense of melody after the first track per se, the overtones remain soaked in emotion. Subtle silhouettes and gentle reverb shimmers over the primal sound like shadows until ghostly melodies materialize on tracks like “Gate” and “Usual Path”.

The summit track is “Yume (Dream)”, an exemplary ambient piece that is the perfect balance between drone and deliciously eerie melody, an interstellar lullaby that may be too psychedelic for typical relaxation. Subsequent tracks revert to primal drones, but this time with darker overtones. The closing track, “Merged into a circle” ends the way the CD begins – pure television test pattern style noise, devoid of overtone.

By I Khider

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