Mikroton is on a roll. Though, to be fair, Kurt Liedwart’s experimental music label has since its inception maintained an extraordinarily high level of quality control, one that has never wavered in its commitment to documenting the renegades operating within both established genre and along the shifting fringe. But Mikroton’s artists are a prickly bunch: they resist pigeonholing and eke out sometimes (deliberately) uncomfortable listening experiences that insist on sharp focus and intense concentration from the listener. You want your art safe & predictable? Look elsewhere.
Take Junk & the Beast. A duo comprised of Veronika Mayer (electronics, accordion) and Petr Vrba (trumpet, clarinet, electronics), no explanation exists that satisfactorily answers how they arrived at that particular moniker, but, much like the environments they augur, pursuing those answers is meaningless, modus operandis remain obscure, and the entirety smacks of abject mystery, the better to propagate its intentional obfuscation. In this case, Trailer is literally reductionism in extremis. The four tracks present don’t feel composed or even improvised so much as simply exist, as if the sounds are always there, awaiting the attendant media player to just be turned on to allow it all to enter your space. “Ant Thriller (Mystery-monger)” illustrates this with great finesse; it is music not as a collection of melodies or concepts but rather like natural phenomenon, like escaping gas or arcing, multivalent plasma. Objects rubbed, stroked, or made physical with almost mathematical precision suggest molecular disintegration trapped in some primordial cosmos of super-colliding happenstance. The electronic systems utilized can only be guessed at (laptop? emasculated circuit boxes?) Vrba is credited with trumpet, clarinet, and vibrating speakers, and even when the spastic resonances of his horns are discernible, their microcosmic properties become simply mulch in the overall mix.
Junk & the Beast (origins unknown, definitions elusive) seem to think that improvisation is a matter of organic/inorganic algebraic ratios. “The Wrong Drug”, though quasi-hallucinatory on face, artfully blends discrete, hand-forged patterns with literal ‘field’ recordings; the subsequent environment suggests a digi-folk outback where the two bend circuits and fauna alike as if trapped in a Frankensteinian laboratory. Improvisation as archaeology, sound dabbling the excavation of questionable sources; what appears tangible is merely the result of the duo’s knack for disturbing air, both what surrounds them and what passes between our ears in equal measure; like its cinematic counterpart, a grand illusion.
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