Dusted Reviews

Thomas Köner - Zyklop

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Thomas Köner

Album: Zyklop

Label: Mille Plateaux

Review date: Jun. 19, 2003

On the Nature of Topographies

Zyklop, the latest release from electronic composer/sound artist (and half of the techno act Porter Ricks) Thomas Köner presents itself not only as a great piece of experimental electronic work, but also as another chapter in the interesting relationship between music as sound art and vice versa. Taken as an effort on par with both the works of those composers invited to join such events as the Whitney Biennial (which saw Forcefield and Stephen Vitiello, among others, set up shop), and those producers who perform at Tonic on a regular basis, the five pieces spread across these two discs come across as catering to a wealth of different tastes and aesthetics. True enough, the music contained herein could easily cater to both the high art set and the avid Wire reader, although these are two segments of the consumer public that find themselves closer and closer with each passing day. Regardless, Köner’s latest work is successful at catering to both sensibilities – the aural and ideological.

The first disc of this set is taken directly from a performance originally done for Radio France in 2002 entitled “Une Topographie Sonore: Col De Vence”. Although it seems daunting both in length and thematic scope (a 60 minute treatise on the connections in naturally occurring sound topography), the piece itself is truly a work of sustained, slow motion beauty. Composed of sounds heard many times before in soundwalks or field recordings of this nature, “Topographie” relies on the sounds of birds, insects, precipitation and winds as much as artificially generated tones and drones. However, each specific sound or series is treated as a slide to be carefully examined, as part of a larger puzzle whose interconnections reveal themselves gracefully over time. Subtle ambient pulses wash through the piece, rising to a genteel swell before lowering into the sounds of distant winds. Similarly, a recording of the fauna found commonly in nature coasts gracefully into extended mechanical buzzing. The whole piece undulates carefully, seeking not to mine obvious collisions of sound that can occur from such natural and synthetic juxtapositions, but rather attempting to point out an almost dialectic understanding of the relations between various environments, both those generated by the human and unseen hand. The 60-minutes contained herein glide and cascade, using every sound and silence to great affect – in all, simply beautiful.

The second disc of this set is probably the more instantly accessible of the two, as it contains four shorter pieces culled from live performances around the world over the past couple of years. The ideas and sounds here are much more direct and focused. “Des Rives” mines the streets for its source material, highlighting the traffic and hustle-and-bustle of the daily city life on what could be any block in any metropolis. It’s a neat summation of the tired repetition that occurs from the daily commute, or a way of looking towards the mundane for inspiration. “Tu, Sempre” is less overtly referential, relying on a series of shifting drones and odd rhythmic clicks to build a rather ominous mood. The track builds carefully on this idea, using human voices as another element to aid in the shifting dynamics until its climax in a glorious fog of sound. There are also two versions of the title track contained herein, both using similar ideas and elements to spin complementary takes on each other. The version from Minneapolis is the quieter one of the two, trading off on swells of sound in contrast to an arrhythmic thumping that gradually ebbs and flows. The second version, recorded in Frankfurt a couple of weeks earlier, relies less on a sense of the laconic and more on pure manifestations of sound. Whereas the other version traffics mostly in subtlety, the source material is given the ability to rise in greater swells with a more enveloping and vivid sonic palette.

Köner’s greatest strength is his ability to gradually build on subtleties until the end result is all encompassing and powerful. Indeed, what sometimes starts as a trickle develops with great ease into sonic flow that never feels forced or unnecessarily busy. Zyklop thus comes across as the work of a highly skilled and patient producer and artist. Although I personally am unable to describe what takes something from the realm of great music into excellent art, I do know that this is a shining example of those very same intangible factors.

By Michael Crumsho

Other Reviews of Thomas Köner


Nunatak • Teimo • Permafrost

Novaya Zemlya

Read More

View all articles by Michael Crumsho

Find out more about Mille Plateaux

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.