Review of Filaments & Voids [12k1050]

The Silent Ballet (US)

Longstanding pianist of the 12k family Kenneth Kirschner isn’t massively interested in the proficiency of his instrument of choice; rather, he focuses his priorities on the subtleties and versatility of sonic texture, much like a good majority of his contemporary avant-garde labelmates. From the packaging that depicts a pale, derelict room (an uncredited photographic artwork by 12k seniority, Taylor Deupree) to the ambiguous state of its classification, Filaments & Voids epitomises the fading line that separates sound art and music. While we can say that music falls within the umbrella term of art, the use of sound here is far more akin to what would hang in an exhibition space rather than be shelved in a record store.

The first disc offers a dark and predominantly experimental collection of pieces, twiddling with noises and squeals in a manner consistent to its 12k home. The opening track, “October 19, 2006”, is a series of spells of soft, eerie feedback with an enormous reliance on intermittent breaks of silence. The second track, “June 10, 1996” (which would make it about 12 years in the making, since Kirschner names his tracks after the date they were begun) notches up the dynamics to allow the bursts of tonal drama to linger, filling the void left by the silence from the previous track and forming a continuous fluctuation of eerie synthesis suitable for the score of any psychological horror picture. The third (and most recently composed) track, “June 10, 2008”, turns the pitch dial up several more notches and extends once again the eerie foundation established by the preceding forty-odd minutes for another twenty-plus minutes of tension.

The second disc comprises a single track no less than 72 minutes in length. While “March 16, 2006” doesn’t relinquish any of the uneasy seesawing pitch, evolving synth effects and pervasive ambient noise, it does succumb on occasion to the audible contributions of Kirschner’s piano; the calm, lethargic taps of the ivories providing an extra passage to the haunting epic narrative. These vague signs of structure, however, never fully free the record from the howls of its continually thickening atmosphere.

With the release of Kirschner’s densely layered, improvised collaboration with Deupree, May, for Room40, Filaments & Voids is an interesting filter that separates not only Kirschner’s individual contribution but also removes it from any semblance of melodious purpose. The technical ambiguity and aesthetic subjectivity of this fascinating record make it just that extra difficult to shoulder the already daunting task of grasping the intentions of the artist, and given my own natural inclination to view Filaments & Voids more fit as an object in an exhibition, it forces an odd sensitivity onto any criticism. Without discounting any unknown specific intention that he may have had, Kirschner’s minimalist approach to forming these evocative streams of subconscious resonance carry a lasting effect for those who patiently experience it. The satisfaction drawn from the experience may not outweigh its aesthetic merits, but an acknowledgement of the ambivalence in Kirschner’s endeavour can serve as solace. -Mac Nguyen

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