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Z’EV + Jason Kahn: Intervals

img  Tobias Fischer

In 2009, experimental percussionist Jason Kahn was joined by percussionist and industrial music pioneer Z’EV for a series of shows in Switzerland. Kahn performed on percussion and analog synthesizer, while Z’EV contributed his signature sound of performing on metal percussion. It was the first time that the two collaborated and based on this release, the shows were largely (if not entirely) improvised. Intervals is ZEV’s heavily processed reworking of the original recordings, condensed into two approximately 25-minute pieces. Mixing ZEV’s music concrète approach—the sounds of chains rattling, coins spinning—with Kahn’s hand percussion work and droning synthesizer work, the sounds are sometimes processed beyond recognition, resulting in a dark, ambient quality. Elsewhere, the music takes on an intriguing, lo-fi electronic characteristic anchored by quiet, high-pitch synth notes and percussion filtered through distortion effects.

“Lausanne // april 13, 2009” is a haunting ambient work built on quiet metallic scraping sounds, and ominous low-end rumbling. Occasional wind-like sounds—possibly the product of ZEV’s post-production—swell subtly behind the percussionists while quiet static crackles around the edges. The seemingly aleatoric sounds of the two musicians walking across the room and dropping pieces of metal arhythmically is countered by more musical elements: gong hits, rhythmic passages performed on cymbals, tribal timpani drumming. Ultimately however, it seems that Kahn and Z’EV are working to avoid any sense of development. Rather, they let each moment exist for what it is, let it fade, and enter with a new idea spurred by their stream-of-conscious interaction.

“Zürich // april 14, 2009” takes a somewhat more “active” approach. Opening with shaker-like sounds of metal rubbed together and sustained synth notes, the piece moves to a period of white noise and glissing, bowed metal percussion. Unlike in “Lausanne,” there is some clear motivic development, repetition of ideas, and clearly demarcated sections. At the piece’s halfway point, for example, piercing high frequency held notes are underpinned by rolling timpani figures and manipulated room ambience. Like “Lausanne,” “Zürich” ends with a single synth note that eventually drowns out all other sounds.

Even within the context of experimental music and music concrète, Intervals can be a difficult listen. The recording is imbued with a severe psychological—at times nightmarish—quality. During certain moments, the music’s muddiness becomes virtually impenetrable and the overall darkness of the aesthetic can be suffocating. That said, Intervals is certainly an intriguing and emotional work—one by two master percussionists willing to approach their instruments in a new way; an album created without artistic compromise that challenges one’s concepts of rhythm, development, and production.

By Hannis Brown

Homepage: Jason Kahn
Homepage: Z'EV
Homepage: Monotype Records

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