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Kim Cascone: "Anti-Musical Celestial Forces"

img  Tobias

On “Anti-Musical Celestial Forces” Kim Cascone, a well-known theoretician, founder of the microsound community and a renowned musician, appears as a narrator, director of auditory cinema, field recordist, sound engineer, electroacoustic composer and as a sound artist of the so-called post-digital era. Formally, the structure of the CD is quite simple – it consists of a single piece, lasting nearly half an hour consisting of two major segments. The first one is led by a narrator's voice as well as a thin curtain of background sounds, which slowly evolves into the second movement – marked by separate episodes of field recordings, sometimes transformed and mixed with digitally generated sounds.

The narrative is of a fragmentary and diary-like character. It draws a picture of  the somewhat misty mood of an early morning – a telephone call, your morning cigarette, the storyteller driving his car in an urban landscape of an empty foggy street  – everything immersed into a “radio static” soundscape, conveyed to the listener through a monotonous voice. It creates a dreamy and melancholic mood out of astutely-noticed every-day details. As frequently happens with good literature, the story might leave an entropic feeling for  non-native English speakers, as the vocabulary is rich and its nuances are elegantly shaping the poetics of spoken-word rhythm.                            

As the story unfolds, everything slowly takes a slightly surreal turn. One is lead into an anonymous space reminiscent of some mysterious sci-fi novels. A quotidian plot turns into a description of the dissemination of the senses, of the inability to move and a fantastic vision. The narrative stops at this point and we enter a second dimension – a collection of processed field recordings, which, presented after this strange narratory introduction, is awarded  dreamy, hallucinatory, but still highly documentary and hyperreal qualities.

What is interesting – and might appear a bit annoying in the beginning – is that separate episodes are not integrated and mixed with each other. The listener just goes through them one by one as if viewing separate pictures in a photo album. And yet afterwards one is rewarded by getting this “anti-compositional” logic, as it allows one to appreciate each of these episodes individually, to feel the passage of time, and consciously turn one's attention from one moment to the next.

We are served a palette of various fragments of this sophisticated sonic reality: harmonic ambient sound mixed with sea waves hitting the shore. The sound of a driving vehicle. A long corridor with a blur of distant voices mixed with sounds of water. Airport- or bus-station-sounds. A Raw Flamenco-Guitar-rehearsal (a short sample, which however reveals the very nature of this genre – a vital and raw intuitive touch of strings and its almost abstract melody and energy). A city tram, digitally generated dark ambiences, arabesque string sounds in the urban surroundings, spacious Muslim chants heard through the speakers (together with a flock of birds) all around  a certain city area, sounds of street musicians mixed with processed field recordings.

All of them create a highly emotionally driven moodscape – from introvert sense of passing time to an ecstatic appreciation of the magic of the moment. What is striking here is the frequently raw, “trivial”, ready-made character of the recordings, their form of (anti)musical miniature, denial of compositional intervention in favour of selective attention and a detached appreciation of an aware observer.

“Anti-musical Celestial Forces”, to my mind, is a poetic, but highly felicitous title for this wonderful album. It creates a fascination for something that transcends purely musical and even sonic qualities through paradoxical and non-linear usage of narrative, memorable ambiences and experiences. It is exactly what one always prefers to leave undescribed, which make this album an inspiring discovery.  

By Tautvydas Bajarkevičius

Homepage: Storung Records

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