Having enjoyed hearing Jason Kahn go 12 rounds with Phil Julian on their analogue vs digital set for Confront Recordings, I couldn’t wait to dive deeper into his wide and varied discography. It’s not always easy keeping track of what he’s put out, but here are some recent favourites.
Bryan Eubanks & Jason Khan: drums saxophone electronics (Intonema CD/DL)
From September 2014, this release on St Petersburg’s Intonema records does exactly what it says on the tin. Khan’s on drums, which caused some ripples of surprise in contemporaneous reviews and Eubanks handles the rest. And very good it is too, chunky sounding, astringent in some places and downright groovy in others – particularly on the opening piece where Khan rolls around his kit like some free jazz veteran, Hamid Drake perhaps. Elsewhere he alternates between polyrhythmic attack and more cosmic higher register clangs and tinkles.
Meanwhile Eubanks brings forth a stormy of fuzz, uneasy rumbling drones and piercing tones in an evolving cloud of noise, like some continually scrolling screen of inscrutable data. On track five he lays down a bassy throb that’s as thick and meaty as an aircraft carrier’s engine room, before flicking the switch to some pebbledash granules of noise, a smidgeon of radio interference and a lovely migraine-inducing metallic oscillation.
Fresh as a bleedin’ daisy and twice as much fun.
Tetuzi Akiyama/Jason Kahn/Toshimaru Nakamura: Between Two (Meenna CD)
Kahn’s on drums again here, but in slightly more restrained form as he teams up with guitarist Akiyama and no-input mixing board hero Nakamura. This is the second outing for this trio – although their previous release saw Kahn twiddling knobs rather than twirling sticks – and captures them live in Tokyo in May 2014.
They’re all on good form, anyhow. I have loved Nakamura’s work ever since I saw him play a show in the long defunct Spitz in east London, where he cleared my incipient sinus problem with a particularly bracing solo set. Here he buzzes and fizzes, at times like an angry caterpillar, at others coaxing strange, insectoid chirrups from his setup.
At one point Nakamura breaks the serene atmosphere with a frenzied squealing, as if he is furiously wrenching the guts out of his gear. Kahn locks in to the others sympathetically, and with Nakamura in particular, his rattling cymbals giving a naturalistic ebb and flow to proceedings. And Akiyama? He drifts in and out like smoke, with sparse guitar lines that make every note count and freight the spaces between them with latent meaning.
A terrific release – here’s to more from this trio.
Jason Kahn – Thirty Seconds Over (Aural Detritus cassette)
After these collaborations it’s nice to hear Kahn flying solo and these two cuts, recorded in 2012 in Brighton and Ghent, are typically focused and intense. Kahn’s on electronics and shortwave radio, and he deepens and extends the sonic vocabulary he’s built up over years of playing and many releases.
The Brighton piece is a stuttering, gnarly beast, with an early salvo of percussive splatters swept away by jittery shortwave blasts which sound like a fucked up car radio in a broken down Ford Cortina. Occasionally, a kind of wheezing squeal breaks out – like a howler monkey recorded on a dictaphone – before the swirls of interference clog up my frontal lobes all over again.
Ghent seems a bit more low-key, its airy hisses and vaporous flutters making me want to call the air conditioning engineer out. There’s more dynamic range than on the Brighton piece, passages of near-silence and minimalist whirrs and squeaks cutting to louder, denser sections. There’s a great section that sounds like a balloon air release, which then transmutes into an angular, squelching morass of electronics. Things get chewier later on, with lower-register rumbles and thick, layered noise and a fantastically jarring blast of electropop courtesy of Kahn’s radio wrangling.
A glittering fragment in the mosaic of Kahn’s discography.
Jason Kahn, Patrick Farmer, Sarah Hughes, Dominic Lash: Untitled for Four (Cathnor)
Finally, Kahn appears as part of quartet on this majestic release for Richard Pinnell’s Cathnor Recordings. It’s as considered and focused as you’d expect from Cathnor, with Khan holding his some of his wilder impulses in check as this hour-long piece (reproduced twice on this disc) unfold.
Less favourable ears might say that this foursome don’t do very much and they take a long time to not do it, but for me listening to these pieces is like watching a glacier. Any kind of movement seems to happen almost imperceptible, yet it is utterly compelling. There’s a nice write-up of the some of the context to the piece over at Just Outside, so I won’t try and retell that story here. Suffice to say it is an absorbing work.
Big up to Pinnell and Cathnor for stepping up to the plate.