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Tomas Korber/Gert-Jan Prins: RI 15442

img  Tobias Fischer

And how novel this thing is to feel, here with a coffee, as RI 15442 by Tomas Korber and Gert-Jan Prins, on Prins‘ Cavity Records, plays yet again, shifting in the room like some large and fickle electric snake. Hotter than hell outside,  I‘m feeling sluggish and faded in this apt company. The slow burn inside is outside now, crickets in the afternoon heat. Distortion in the trees.

    Korber has always been a clever and underrated musician (among so many working in electro improv/composition area), quietly fashioning some beautiful, intense and difficult works since fully emerging into his own around 2005 with a flurry of releases, among them, his fantastic solo album, Effacement on Cut records. His duos of the last few years with likeminded, singular musicians like Utah Kawasaki, Ralf Wehowsky and Phil Julian have stood out starkly in the improvised music world, putting his vast range and number of approaches through the ringer with interesting music often emerging. But of these recent collaborators, Gert-Jan Prins might be the most similar in musical conception, as seemingly fascinated as Korber with the granulated and precise as with the chaotic and uncontrolled. As Prins said in an article in the Wire by Phil England in 2003 about his work with radios, “I like to work with something that is a little bit unstable and out of control.” Prins’ work with electronics and radios have always appealed to me, his solo on Grob, Live, is still a go-to album for a harsh head trip, and he‘s only become more nuanced and masterful of his electronic setup since that 2000 foray. RI 15442 capitalizes on the slow build intensity of some of the their other work, while never appearing static. Its textures are varied and the dynamics large, while still staying in a largely spitting, severe electronic space.

     What’s surprising, is that it doesn’t need great volume to help conjure this intensity of feeling; although it can be quite loud depending on your preferences for volume knob twisting. Nor does it rely on the hyperactivity of the call and response, kick and punch, virtuoso-technique, improv antics to produce some sort of aura of the Important Art; although it can still be overwhelmingly active and layered. In fact it starts seemingly fully formed -- gritty electronics and guitar thrum, entwined and shifting -- insinuating an almost endlessness, as if the music had always been playing, and the listener is simply tapping into some network of coursing electricity,  nearly static if you’re not paying attention, but beautifully detailed on further investigation.  Around 12 minutes in Korber’s guitar emerges in a beautiful drone behind the aspirated electronics, and the collaboration feels more apt than ever before, their individual languages engaging subtly and fully. Prins’ electronics casting a mustard haze over scarlet siren tones that collapse and emerge into more crushing textures, buzzing; the snake shifts out of its electric skin.

    Restraint in this is key, and both musicians are masters of holding back what could easily become some wall-noise blowout, never sacrificing that subtlety for brute force. Throughout RI 15442 there’s delicate dynamic balance, a tense build of constantly shifting textures. At one point Korber’s guitar and electronics create digital ghost howls, while Prins’ set up producing staccato pockets, wave and particle, light manifested in sound. It’s a delicate and beautiful moment and could have easily been overdone,  emphasized into a mess of burnt out sound, but instead it’s acknowledged then subsumed into the shifting skein once more. Through headphones RI 15442 can seem claustrophobic and hermetic, every detail burnt into your cochlea like a white phosphoresce tattoo; speakers allow the sounds to emerge with a fuller, more dynamic resonance, using the walls as resounding spaces. This resounding is even more apparent around half way through the album as Prins and Korber allow space into the rush of sound -- the music splinters, sounds hiccup, and there’s a bit of breathing room, a time to stretch. A needed respite, and a signal of the eventual slow down and disintegration for the rest of the album that never again regains its previous intensity, as if entropy has finally entered the picture and the energy winds down and dissipates. None the less, the music’s vibrancy does not dull, and in fact it feels as if it’s the only logical step, as the album burns down to a nub, a wisp of smoke in the air.  

    The music on RI 15442 can only  fully emerge when you decide to mingle with it wholly, when you let the grit of Gert-Jan Prins’ electronics and the deconstructed peels of Tomas Korber’s guitar feedback sit inside of you, marking you in obscure ways.  Because this is sound that lays waste then builds something new until starting over once again.  But it takes some effort to put yourself inside, to let it burn its outline in great and terrible shapes. And music such as this deserves no less really: only full attention; your sublimation on the living room floor; a cracked cup on its side and coffee trickling into shag. Distortion in the trees.

By Tanner Servoss

Homepage: Tomas Korber
Homepage: Gert-Jan Prins
Homepage: Cavity Recordings

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