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Danny Saul - Kinison-Goldthwait [Hibernate Recordings - 2010]

2010's 'Kinison-Goldthwait' was Danny Saul's last solo release, its processed loops of strings, piano and guitar present a clear midway point between his earlier acoustic-based songcraft and the more wayward manipulations of electroacoustic composition that he is now studying in his hometown of Manchester, England. But the most curious thing here is the concept imposed on the elegant sound structures by the album and track titles.

It's named after two shouty American comedians of the late eighties, Sam Kinison and Bobcat Goldthwait, the track titles dividing the disc's 44 minutes between the two. The opening 12 or so minutes are named 'Kinison', the next 12 are attributed to Goldthwait, the penultimate track refers to the Howard Stern show on which the two famously had a spat and the final piece is named after the time and place of Kinison's death in a road crash. Such a tightly phrased concept wouldn't be so unusual if the instrumentals somehow related to the story their nomenclature promoted, but here the music seems to wilfully oppose the narrative.

This oxymoronic effect is most obvious throughout the first three tracks that segue together as 'Kinison'. Their repeating refrains from stately strings, softened guitar and lazy piano strongly remind of the tranquil BBC idents that feature the calm concentric movements of clear water, and certainly not the seething, booze-fuelled anger of a ranting stand-up comedian.

Bobcat Goldthwait's themes are similarly opposing. The comedian perhaps most famous for playing the kooky criminal with the annoyingly whiny voice in the Police Academy series is here represented by suspended, dark, wiry tones arcing out of a lightly rumbling fog before a slow, melancholy organ cycles a sad path progressively gilded by distortion and an equally plaintive guitar.

By the time we get to the fifth piece, 'On Howard Stern', it becomes tempting to cast Saul's moody, droning strings that slowly build to a crescendo replete with bristling pools of guitar, as the trajectory taken by the comedians' argument. But, drifting away again on its own hazy and languid cloud, the track denies any correlation to the constant jealous bickering encouraged by the shock jock back in 1988 that began and ended abruptly with little respite in between from the battling egos on air.

The last track commemorating the death of Sam Kinison does sound like an elegy with its spare pained piano, but then again so does the rest of the album, which, with its beautifully recorded Eno-esque ambience, both serious and serene, is almost vandalised by its concept. Saul's lightly self-deprecating sleeve notes suggest the album is "not to be puzzled over" and he admits on the label's website that it is merely an "ambiguous narrative"; and listening to the album certainly benefits from these words: by ignoring the photos of the comedians on the sleeve along with the titling one arrives at a pleasantly floaty flight of polished and processed themes, but still left puzzling over their packaging.

Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5

Russell Cuzner
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