Spaniard Francisco Lopez and Italian Maurizio Bianchi (aka M.B.) share more than their Mediterranean origins. Both men have made recordings over the past 30-odd years that smudge the lines between noise, sound and music with heavy sweeps of a hobnailed boot. And now they occupy the same record. The rationale for this auditory cohabitation is that they used the same original source materials, which their press blurb asserts they jointly created. Here is where certainty ends. That text also indicates that “KRMN (for Karbon Monooksido) has been produced from the impartial de-oxidation of sonorous carbon-containing modular compounds.” Are they referring to the gas carbon monoxide, or to the sound materials that each applied to very different, but highly characteristic, ends? And what’s with the Esperanto, anyway?
Maybe it doesn’t matter. Both Lopez and Bianchi have subjected their source material, whether its machines, bugs or rainforest precipitation, to processes that render it utterly unrecognizable. Conversely, the two tracks on KRMN are instantly recognizable as the work of the men credited with making them. Bianchi’s is the more brutal production. It adheres remorselessly to one pattern. Over a background of sputtering, noxious static, Bianchi lays down seven- to nine-second blasts of a grimier, harsher sound of unknown origin. He stops for a second, then re-applies the blast. This continues for over 44 minutes. It could be an engine turning over or a drill hitting metal; it definitely varies in pitch, ranging from an eardrum-afflicting high to a jawbone-powdering low. This is primo noise, people — embrace the pain! No, really; there is something trance-inducing in “KRMN (MB)’s” utterly relentless repetition, which also forces the brain to hear every varied facet of that blast in the same way that your eye might discern the varied shapes of individual sparks if you watched a welder install the same piece on an assembly line for a couple hours.
“KRMN (FL),” by contrast, is extraordinarily dynamic. Where Bianchi tries to bludgeon you with sound, Lopez seeks to immerse you in it. It starts, as is often the case with his music, with a palpable digital silence. The next sounds are a low bass presence best experienced with subwoofers the size of your last analog TV set and a multi-layered spray of bright, pixilated frequencies. The sound is in constant flux, like a sped-up film of light playing off of clouds. It’s tempting to experience the music as a flux of colors; granular blues mix with feathery whites, fluorescent oranges and pinks streak across a fiber-dusted, darkening gray. The sound disappears and then slowly builds again, ranging from feather-light to medicine ball-heavy without ever lapsing into anything so mundane as a tune. It may be amorphous, but it feels exactingly calibrated and it’s never less than engaging. If you know Lopez’s work, by now you know that this is a fairly typical example of it; happily, it’s also fairly top-drawer.