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Eli Keszler - Cold Pin

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Artist: Eli Keszler

Album: Cold Pin

Label: Pan

Review date: Feb. 1, 2012

When we talk about energy in music, we typically mean a few things. The metaphysical/spiritual drive in the music of John Coltrane and Albert Ayler. The animating DIY spirit of punk and post-punk. The immersion and ecstasy of club music (both the in situ kind and the imagined bedroom kind). The charisma of a performer in rock or hip-hop.

What these all have in common is that it’s not real energy we’re talking about — energy is just the metaphor we use to describe these experiences. Rarely, if ever, are we talking about actual energy, about motion converted into something usable, soundwaves experienced in space. In the music of Eli Keszler, energy is everything. Not the metaphorical kind, but the real, actual thing.

Keszler is a drummer by training, but his soundworld encompasses so much more. Eschewing electronic means, much of it is built around the contrast between his dense, pointillist drumming attack and the huge sustained sonorities he sets in motion around him through various mechanical and compositional means. His most recent solo release, Oxtirn, was for a small ensemble interpreting a graphic score. Cold Pin is also a composition of his, but it’s a different entity altogether. It’s the name of this record, but it’s also the name of a visceral >installation, built from piano wires and motors, that Keszler has been developing over the past couple of years.

This LP documents one iteration of the installation, where a sextet interacts with the sound sculpture as it plays. In place of witnessing the installation in person, it’s this interaction that drives Cold Pin. On the A side, where the installation thunders along, the ensemble moves around its periphery, augmenting and adorning the already monolithic sound with droning clusters and sharp high-frequencies. On the B side, where the installation’s motors function as percussive devices, clicking against metal boxes and not piano wires, the ensemble adopts a range of approaches, from filling the gaps with concise gestures to contrasting with thick sustained tones.

Keszler, in building a composition that drops listeners into a full-bodied experience of sound and space, seems intent on taking up the challenge posed by composer Iannis Xenakis when he stated, “Music is used as acoustical energy. The problem of composition is how to use that energy.” For Keszler, it’s not about using energy, but harnessing it. He understands that energy is always in a state of flux, so he lets it move, from stretches of intense, hyper-detailed activity and booming, metallic shudders to tense moments of stasis. He shows us that when dealing with energy, we don’t need metaphors to give the sounds real power.

By Matthew Wuethrich

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