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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Eyvind Kang - Visible Breath (Ideologic Organ, 2012)***½

By Philip Coombs 

I moved to the equator three years ago from my house in Northern Canada for several reasons. The main one was the weather. Since being in Singapore I have yet to walk outside in the winter to see my own breath, a breath that back home would hang in the air in front of my face almost long enough to touch it and watch it shatter. Not once has my nose frozen shut.

On my bus commute home, I hit play on the title track of this Eyvind Kang release and was immediately struck with a winter soundtrack somewhere on a long dimly lit backroad, somewhere back home. I exhale and there it is, my cold, white, fragile breath.

Kang (viola) orchestrates his ensemble who play everything from a cello, to a pedal steel guitar, oboe, even a glass player, to paint a picture of stark beauty. He has performed with such visionaries as Bill Frisell, Mike Patton, and Sunn O))) in the past so he commiserates with the progressive mind. His use of tones layered on tones blurs sight of what instrument is contributing what to the soundscape. As soon as the sonic landscape is seemingly frozen into place, it begins to change. With more adding and more building, the mood turns into something else. It is done so delicately that you will feel your anxiety level rising before noticing the shift.

Human voices are added to the foreboding. The suspense builds to a point where, at times, I wanted to turn off the 15 minute track to catch my breath. Instruments turn into car horns. Instruments turn into the sound of a typewriter off in the distance. Instruments turn into people running for their lives. It is unrelenting. Layer after layer continue to be added to this score worthy of a Hitchcock film. I have to open my eyes to regain my bearings and sitting across from me is a young lady who is clearly out to get me. And then it ends, the paranoia and the track. It begins to feel like 35 degrees Celsius again and I can no longer see my breath.

Unfortunately, I do not have the same emotional attachment to the remaining 2 tracks that round out this relatively short recording. Track 2, Monadology, is a wonderful study of pulse and restraint but after the opening track, it simply lacks a little soul.

Track 3, Thick Tarragon, the same, although once the intensity died down and Kang started playing with all sorts of starts and stops half way through, I have to admit, it did get my attention back.

This 39 minute, highly constructed album can seem never-ending one moment and briskly short the next. It does take a little dedication and imagination to get the full impact and certainly not the type of recording that you have on in the background as you try to do anything else.

Can be downloaded from emusic

© stef