The inimitable Jason Kahn strikes again, returning this time to his electro-transistor assemblages for a collaboration with Tim Olive after forays into unaccompanied vocal work and free jazz drum tangles.
I hadn’t heard of Olive before this recording, but he gels solidly with Kahn on these two elongated, sharp-edged pieces recorded on tour in Japan, where Olive resides (he’s Canadian by birth). Interestingly another Olive collab, Frackers-Como, produced with Horacio Pollard and released by Nick Hoffman’s Pilgrim Talk label, came across my desk just after this, its brevity and aggression an astringent contrast to the glacial twitches of the Kahn-Olive universe. That Olive chap is one to watch, I think.
Back in Japan, there’s plenty going on. Fukuoka has a spidery, tense energy, its electrical fizzes given a physical dimension by contact mic’d rustles and knockings. It’s like putting an outwardly featureless chunk of ice under the microscope to reveal the teeming bugs and bacteria inside. There’s plenty of shortwave fuzz in these sections, on one occasion actually resolving itself into a snatch of pop music, but for most of the time staying firmly with the white noise of the aether. At about 9:24, a feisty burst of this static is joined by a strange organic squelching. A lovely wave of proto-industrial noise surfs in at 11:38, which suddenly cuts out before we can indulge in any HNW headbanging, to be replaced by a sombre drum toll. From then on things get heavy, the drum thuds supplanted by a mess of noise and snarking glitch, the duo going hell for leather in full industrial-accident-in-the-shipyard vibe until the end.
Osaka, meanwhile, is a whole lot less polite, with sheets of metal noise unleashed almost from the get-go, their corroded surfaces an unexpectedly ideal backdrop for the ongoing alternating current blasts that skitter across them. Yet, like the Fukuoka date, there are moments of quietness too. I hesitate to call them calm – low-temperature tension might be a better description of the vibe during these times, the duo’s machine sounds resembling the failing detection systems of an Arctic base as it is gradually taken out of action by a mysterious entity from underneath the ice shelf. It’s particularly in effect at the start, where the combination of wrenching crashes and electrical buzzes really does sound like the walls being ripped asunder as the server room goes into emergency shut-down. The whole thing is pretty snarly, to be honest, both the loud and the quiet bits, the duo taking things up a notch for the final few minutes of dense, angular noise which evokes, simultaneously, a boulder-filled avalanche and a glitching Armageddon. Glorious.