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Tetras: Pareidolia; Jason Kahn: On Metal Shore

img  Tobias Fischer

The methodologies that yielded these two albums differ drastically, but they’re united in presentation, sound, and personnel. Both of them feature Jason Kahn, an American living in Switzerland, on percussion and electronics. Readers of a certain age might have first encountered him in the California-based SST bands Universal Congress Of and Trotsky Icepick, but since the late 90s he’s been based in Europe and recorded with the likes of Toshimaru Nakamura, Günter Müller, Christian Wolfarth, and Asher. Kahn also ran the late and much-missed Cut label until 2009; Editions is the first release of his new imprint Editions, which will be devoted solely to his own work. Cut released CDs, but both of these are vinyl releases, and on each Kahn made the covers himself. Leaving the marks of his touch on the things he makes is one way he is fighting the disembodiment of contemporary digital culture.

Kahn made On Metal Shore alone, recording metal pipes, ladders, water tanks, and siding, then playing the sounds through various other metal objects in his studio. He then layered this material with environmental sounds using a computer. The effect is somewhat like a collage of slowed-down recordings of Harry Bertoia sculptures with commentary by the crickets and birds he disturbed while playing. This music is well matched to the vinyl medium; the produce of physical processes, it gets a final frisson from the palpability of playback. Fetishizing aside, its two side-long pieces are rich and often gorgeous expositions of unbound sound.

Tetras, on the other hand, represents Kahn’s return after many years to something akin to jazz and/or rock music. He plays a drum kit for the first time since, I think, the first Repeat CD; double bassist Christian Weber and sound engineer Jeroen Visser on organ and synth round out the trio. The album’s four tracks are collectively improvised, but they don’t generally sound like “improvised music.” Kahn’s near-metronomic drumming generates the same sort of looming presence as his more recent work playing a synthesizer through a snare drum; you sense his sound waves radiating away from some centered place, smacking walls and ceilings, establishing the shape of the space like pitched-down, monstrously magnified bat cries. Visser adds to the impression of group sound as a hovering presence by favoring long tones and slowly morphing chords, leaving it to Weber to imply forward motion with plucked lines and questing arco forays.

It’s as though selected slivers of electric Miles Davis — a few seconds of In A Silent Way, the organ interludes on Agharta — were blown up to the size of clouds, given life, then unleashed into unstable weather. Although each side seems to be a separate performance, the two LPs build like a single piece. After an hour of slow build, the music bursts like a raincloud on the final side, with Visser’s synths breaking out of the collective boom to blast and rumble like thunder and lightning caroming down a long canyon.

By Bill Meyer

Homepage: Jason Kahn
Homepage: Flingco Recordings

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