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CD Feature/ Kiko C. Esseiva: "Sous Les Etoiles"

img  Tobias

Why do we ride a rollercoaster or watch horror movies? Because it seems to be a deeply human sentiment to enjoy walking on the edge and of feeling that irresistible sensation which comes when flirting with danger. On only his second solo album in four years time, Half Spanish, Half-Swiss artist Kiko C. Esseiva attempts recreating these emotions in his music – and without the use of brute force, using gentle persuasion and a clever sense of psychology only.

Esseiva has in fact turned a widely acknowledged realisation – that pure sound is the most primordial and immediate stimulus to enter the ear and pierce the brain – from dry theory into a full-on and sympathetically confrontational work of art. It places him directly in line with artists like John Cage, who felt the need to free music from the wounds inflicted by composition and conscious rearrangement and manipulation, while simultaneously heading for something tangibly and promisingly new.

“Sous les etoiles” accordingly leads listeners to a world where the chewing of an apple can represent a Leitmotif, where the pounding of a metal jerry can duets with a Glockenspiel, where creaking doors establish a haunting presence, scissors snap in complex rhythms and swelling organ drones linger in the morning air.

As the album progresses, melody and harmony chime in, entering the musique concrete canvas through surrealist brush strokes. “En Reve” sounds as though a Bach Partita for Violin were forced through a grinder and the almost-title track “Sous les Etoiles Toujours” places solitarily romantic nocturnal Piano drops amidst an environment of ominously billowing backwards chords. On other occasion, the unusual liaison between traditional musical elements and timbral associations is more implied than openly expressed, but the effect is no less powerful.

Of course, these tracks are very much organised and planned. Esseiva balances his elements carefully, placing them side by side both in symbiotic or mutually destructive relations. When cheeky upwards-clicks bounce into attractively slurping noises, the music seems to almost fall apart, but the encounter of a premonitiously dreaming antique clockwork with a continously pounding gong and objects randomly falling into a rubber bucket develops a magical pull. In both cases, though, nothing is left to chance and the pieces display an air of regal precision.

Thanks to the naive cut-up vocals of Kirsten Gigase, whose tender voice turns up in the short sketches connecting the longer instrumental pieces, the album, however, manages to escape the dangers of stubborn Academia. “Tout tourne” (“Everything is turning”), she intones, asking the listener “Ne faites-vous pas la toupie?” (“Will you not spin round like a top?”). The way she says it, erotic in a cool and reserved way, makes you want to be a child again.

It makes these sounds appear to be moving freely and organically. “Sous les Etoiles” is the aural equivalent of Alice’s Wonderland, a space you can only access by eating yourself through a wall made of semolina pudding. It is so close you can almost touch it, without ever fully materialising, dissolving into shiny little crystals instead. Animals are blaring and screaming in the distance, but you can only make out their silhouettes.

At times, this sonic painting is slightly disturbing, especially when listened to at night with the curtains closed and the stereo on full capacity. You want to turn the volume down, but you’re afraid to move. Whether this sounds appealing or repulsive is up to you. In any case, it is an album which will leave few indifferent, a work which walks on the edge with a smile, knowing quite well that there is nothing to be feared.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Hinterzimmer Records

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