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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Various Artists - Zelphabet vol K [Zelphabet - 2010]

Upon first glance, I thought this disc was just a CD sampler that fell through the cracks of the Musique Machine office. It was published back in 2010. However, after some further investigation, I discovered this release is part of GX Jupitter-Larsen’s massive Zelphabet series.

Zelphabet is an 27-part subscription series, with each disc combining artists of the same letter of the alphabet. Aren’t there only 26 letters in the alphabet you ask? For subscribers, rather than those who buy the discs piece meal, Jupitter-Larsen has added an “extra” letter as a special gift. At $200, the subscription is actually a pretty good deal….if you’ve got that kind of dough laying around. The Volume I received is K. It’s funny, it didn’t even dawn on me that all the artist monikers started with the same letter until I got some background info on the CD.

Zelphabet: Volume K consists of an eclectic mix of artists, featuring: K2, Key Ransone, KK Null, and Kluster 07. It might sound cliché, but there truly is something for everyone into experimental/avant garde sounds.

The cover for the disc is a simple glue pocket and the CD itself appears to be a high quality pro-pressing. The cover art features a butter knife atop a gravelly stone surface. Done in black in white, it’s simple but effective.

The disc starts off with “Choke” by legendary Japanese noise artist K2 (Kimihide Kusafuka). Clocking in at almost 20 minutes, it’s an unrelenting maelstrom of harsh noise. It is constant shifts of static wash, heavy explosive dive bombs, laser gun synths, and plenty of start/stop moments. High end screeches, electronic pulses, and broken up static crackle also pervade the track, making no space for breathing room.

Track 2 “Tangible Bride” belongs to Key Ranson and they’re definitely the odd man out on this eclectic collection. Key Ransone bring an experimental orchestral piece to the mix. It starts with a really slow build up (a minute in and I wasn’t sure I was even hearing anything). The first half of the track sounds like an eerily growing tuning session that hits a peak at 6:08...then a brief pause before we move into the second half. A brief flurry of stringed instrumentation and we are greeted to both male and female singing. Minutes in and the instruments work themselves up into a cacophonous flurry once again of furiously played strings and horns. After a minute or so of this, things calm down a bit and end things on some receding eerie notes. For some reason this track reminded me of equal parts Auk Theatre and Rachels as channeled through a Peter Greenaway film. It may take a little patience to get into this track, but the payoff is definitely there.

Another japanoise great, KK Null, provides the 3rd track entitled “Tokyo August 15.” This nearly 20 minute piece is a rather epic sprawl of repetitive, glitchy beats and sci-fi synth sounds. About 9 minutes in a churning and grinding interlude takes hold then recedes into a rapid rave segment. The last quarter of the track is less focused on beats and more based on sputtering synth pulses and sci-fi synth noodling. It almost feels likes 3 separate tracks combined into 1. However, the title indicates that this may have be a superbly recorded live performance.

The final track is by Kluster 07….a project I’m not all that familiar with. The track is titled “17:47,” however my computer says it’s 17:48, so they’re off by a second. It’s a rather somber piece, that starts with a long passage of repetitive tribal percussion, keys, and minimal synth. At around 4:30 in the track devolves into echoing synth pulses. It has a bit of 70’s british sci-fi flavor to it. Squelchy electronic blobs float into the atmosphere with tiny synthy pin-pricks to fill in the void. Percussive reverberations, industrial pulses and an organic stringed instrument (a sitar maybe?) carry us through to the tracks final conclusion.

All is all this a good sampling of underground experimental music in it’s many permutations. Someone loan this working stiff 200 clams so I can sign up for a subscription.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Hal Harmon
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