Kostis Kilymis: Komhths

Hideous Replica (HR3), edition of 100, c31 cassette

Kostis Kilymis is a composer and musician of great skill and control. He mobilises a wide array of electronic and acoustic equipment – mixing board, effects, microphones, cassette recorders, software, field recordings and lots more – to create poised and resonant soundscapes, which differ from other electroacoustic practitioners by dint of their precision and sheer sonic variety. These are deeply thought-out works, executed with great rigour. I’d call his work exploratory but he always seems to know exactly what he’s doing. Everything, as they say, is in the right place.

So, for example, Temporary Perspectives, Kilymis’s 2010 release (under his Syn Dromes alias) on his own Organized Music From Thessaloniki label, consists of four long pieces, eerie landscapes out which mysterious sounds rise.

These sounds are divorced from their origins and have a unsettling, acousmatic power. The pieces somehow resemble a Dali canvas, parched and dreamlike landscapes populated by strange creatures and transformed objects. And while they are of, and about, only themselves, I can’t help thinking of these sound artefacts as fetishes surfacing from our contemporary digital unconscious.

On 2012’s More Noise Ahead – released by OMFT in conjunction with Entr’acte – the pieces are shorter, more abrasive, denser, but no less carefully constructed. Tiny Vices Part 1 places machine-gun bursts of static against strange metallic howls and earache screeches, all underpinned by an aggressive electronic hum. And Reaction As An Afterthought’s abrupt crackles and blasts of distortion seem to twist and turn even as they are held in stasis by a comically sinister repeating tone.

Kilymis has a new album in the works, if a recent Facebook posting is anything to go by, but, in the meantime, he’s put out Komhths, three long tracks on a C31 cassette, courtesy of London-based label Hideous Replica. The feeling here is urgent and stripped down. There are more rhythmic elements and at times the pieces point towards a scorched form of techno, even as irregular bursts of white noise threaten to pull things apart.

This is particularly prevalent in the long track that makes up side 2, Comet Athena, driven as it is by what sounds like a pulsing kick drum. The rhythm drops in after an initial austere whine, and the pulses shift and change as the track goes on, with muffled scrapes and parps undercutting its forward motion.

Over on Side A, meanwhile, starts things off with the long, deep drone of Comet Approach. It’s minimal, but absorbing.  Time and distance seem to dissolve into a cosmic meditation. Glassy tones occasionally gain form and drift above the drone, then disperse, falling back into the lower frequencies. The piece casts a dark aura, an inversion of the light and heat shed by a comet in the depths of space, before abruptly shifting into the second track, Comet.

This serves up a dry metronomic click, offering the palest hint of a beat, over which splintered glitches fizz and burst. Rather than any kind of development, there’s a bare perseverance, the stubbon logic to go on in the face of multiple systems failures and attempted shutdowns. Faltering mechanisms decaying into the dark. The last gasps of equipment warmed only by radiation from a passing body as it carves a lonely trajectory through the void.

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To get Komhths, head over to Hideous Replica.

For more about Kostis and, including a more detailed discography, go to his website.

It’s also worth checking out Kostis’s label, Organized Music From Thessaloniki.

You can read my review of the label’s two most recent releases here.

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