Monday 30 October 2017

Roland Kayn - A Little Electronic Milky Way Of Sound (a kind of review)

'I see it as a bridge between man and machine' - Roland Kayn

Many wouldn't consider Roland Kayn's A Little Electronic Milky Way Of Sound to be 'music'. Fittingly, with that in mind, this may not be a 'review'.
But you can call Kayn's sound music.
And I can call this a review. It is, after all, quite likely to be the closest thing to a review of ALEMWS I will write. 

You may have read other 'reviews', or more likely, observations based on previous Kayn releases with added history, quotes and generalisations about this box set. In other instances, where the journalist was sent a promo file, they have reviewed it before fully digesting what amounts to about 14 hours of music. I don't need to tell you that it's impossible to fully digest that much sound so quickly. That said, they may be more capable than me. I'm still listening to Pierre Henry's Utopia and hearing new things. To hear is of no merit, a duck also hears, as Stravinsky said. To listen, that is the thing; the difficult thing with so many distractions (the siren song of the internet!).

Kayn talks of a bridge between man and machine and I must tell you that whilst listening to Track 1, Czerial, for the fifth or sixth time one morning last week (not having read the above quote), it really felt as if the earbuds had become receivers, as opposed to transmitters, like stethoscopes against my head, allowing me to hear the workings of...what? My Mind, or brain? What mechanism made those sounds? Was I going mad?

There's undoubtedly an impression of machines 'breathing' in Czerial. Kayn, as you've no doubt read, is barely in control of what they do; he seems to set them in motion, equipped with the electronic (?) DNA he has fed them. Yet his methods are still a mystery for the most part. He talked in general terms of 'self-governing processes in the studio', likening it to throwing stones into water at different intervals and seeing ' very complex intersections'. 

As befits the man of mystery who didn't get the wider recognition he deserved when he lived, there's no info-packed booklet accompanying this box set. Somehow it seems right. The music may speak for itself and you the listener may hear in it what you wish to hear, or think you hear. ALEMWS is, after all, music to unleash the imagination of both listener and, one might fancifully say, the machines, for at times it really does sound as if they too are learning whilst they 'listen' to themselves. It's as if the 'aliens' meet and try to communicate whilst we humans, burdened with musical baggage as we are, try to unlearn everything we think we know about sound.

I talk as if the journey, for me, is complete, but must remind you of what I said earlier. The fact is that I have ventured only as far as Disc 4, which despite only being a quarter of the material, already feels like the 'outer limits'. One can't help but make sci-fi comparisons, from the title alone (oh the irony of the word 'little'!). The milky way cannot help but appear massive from where we stand, unaided by radio telescopic technology, as naked humans using our naked eyes we gaze up, incapable of grasping it all. As you'll have gathered, I am currently no closer to grasping the enormity of this little sonic galaxy either. 

Whilst much electronic music aspires to conjuring up sci-fi scenarios, I've yet to hear any that portray the 'alien' machine as convincingly as A Little Electronic Milky Way Of Sound. Not that I imagine that was Kayn's intention. Or was it? Did he have life 'out there' in mind when setting the process in motion? There are no 'greys', no biomorphic beings...but machines, as we might call, cybernetic, bio-technological 'lifeforms'. So it seems as I listen. 

At the 36min 33secs mark on Czerial there's a 'Terminator' moment, but unlike Goldie's classic, this really is music for 'metal heads', of metal heads, one might say. One might lazily bring in the term 'ambient' to describe the atmosphere, the rhythm/beatless (of course) drift, yet to do so would be wrong. If I may make a comparison relating to other 'space' records, namely Brian Eno's awe-struck, blissed-out wonderment of Apollo, this is the opposite in atmosphere and effect. At times, I was reminded more of the tension created by Ridley Scott in Alien ("Here, kitty, kitty") than any visual/sonic representation of beauty Out There. 

As I suggested earlier, to these ears, A Little Electronic Milky Way Of Sound is as much the sound of inner space as outer, despite my love of sci-fi and subsequent fictitious/visual comparisons. Like the sound of technology set in motion, it's hard to control impressions left by this music. Unlike the linear narratives and neat endings of most science-fiction, Kayn's 'story' feels endless, not simply due to its length, but the very nature of what unfolds. Although it's an expensive product, I promise that should you also decide to invest in this galaxy of sound, you too will be 'travelling' for a very long time.

Roland Kayn official website here

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