In place. JASON KAHN
(Winds Measure 2013)

Review by Patrick Farmer

“Tarrantino is interested in watching somebody’s ear getting cut off; David Lynch is interested in the ear.”

David Foster Wallace. A supposedly fun thing I’ll never do again.

A story? Not a field recording, but a rendition of a field recording? Being as it seems to have been made in the studio, though the dichotomy barely seems relevant anymore.

Not bereft of interpretation, Kahn, experiencing the landscape, creates another one, opened through language that leaves much to the imagination, leaving you to develop the environmental dynamic through the impassioned signal of his throat.

This isn’t a beginning; I’ve been playing Jason Kahn’s in place (a collection of sensorial experience and conception?) for at least a month, but I haven’t written a single word until now. I’ve been waiting for a way in, it would seem, the multiplicity of reference, the stems of its approach rattling in the lights of various others, keep eluding me, or are too big for me, it’s so often giants that lead you too squint. This tape seems to cry out for anything other than a review, so here I am reviewing it.

I’m actually in Waterstones… Sat with a coffee that was made, or owned, by a company I would rather not support, but I walked in here after meeting an old friend I hadn’t seen in years, because I needed the toilet. Before walking up the three flights of stairs (an ascension, worth the while, if only to smile at the ingenuity of the pigeons, nesting behind the railings of old industry, year after year) (it would seem the two can co-exist) I, as is my frustrating bent, got waylaid (much like guinea pigs are constantly waylaid by constantly re-encountering their environment that hasn’t moved since they last encountered it) by books, funny that. This particular branch has a section called, Amy’s bookshelf, I doubt Amy exists, but there’s often a nice crop of new translations or re-published novels, last time it was Leaves Of Grass this time it’s David Foster Wallace’s A supposedly fun thing I’ll never do again.

I’ve tried to read Wallace’s work several times over the past few years but have never been able to give it the time it so obviously deserves, it being a massive intellect, and so today, ignoring my bladder, I sat down near an impossibly low table, containing books by Anne Carson and W.G. Sebald, and began to read Wallace’s essay on David Lynch’s Lost Highway. A few pages in and I’m reminded of my predicament, my original call to void. Whilst I read about how much David Lynch urinates onset, due to his monstrous coffee consumption, often up against a tree, before I know what’s happening my suggestible mind, in cahoots with my bladder, has led me to purchase the book and I’m finally heading upstairs (I don’t have the option of a tree, and anyway, a friend of mine was once subject to a rather hefty fine for such an indulgence). Upon reaching the third floor I find that the toilets are closed for ‘today and today only’, so the sign goes, a swig of merriment to my rising, and deserved, panic.

This short and seemingly inconsequential series of events led to my finally giving up, letting go of my procrastination and relinquishing control. And by control I mean thought. This is part, a review, I can’t say otherwise.

This new tape by Jason Kahn, released by Winds Measure, is nothing new, as some might think, but I might say that it is sorely needed, packaged as it is. One could say it’s a prose poem, a document, a report, a non-fiction, a studio album, it doesn’t really matter, what I think matters, is that it has been released by a label, the existence of which, is to release objects predominantly associated with sound, that there, alleviates, and bypasses, a lot of confusion. It pulls on certain ropes of subliminality that sorely needed a good ringing. Call to mind that image of John Cage and David Tudor, the formers head poised inside the cavity of a temple bell, the latter braced and ready to strike its surface, and going back 60 years or so, funnily enough, around the time said photo was taken, when the advent of the portable tape player gave rise to a resounding cry and the subjective metric of various poets and their tongues, heard by many for the first time as the tape heads spun, was put out into the world, bringing an audience closer to the image and their image, for a moment.

But to willingly digress, this release, is immensely enjoyable, for a whole host of reasons, from the somewhat superficial – Kahn here sounds unnervingly like Christopher Walken, his grey delivery, flattened by plastic and iron oxide, leading me to imagine his eyes doing the talking – to the more aesthetic – as a result of the above mentioned similarity, Kahn’s oratorical talent is striking and the manner of his voice leads me about as far away from the scenes he depicts into my own scenes as is possible. A-pleasing-effect. Analogous to the stark reduction in sound quality of the tape upon which it is magnetised and the imagination from which it stems.

(The texts here were written in Japan, Daitoku-Ji and Shibuya Crossing, and in a manner vaguely reminiscent of a previous release, once again pushing at the edges and dimensions of a more durational field recording, – once again the moniker of field recording here seems moot – as he did on another Winds Measure release, his 6 CD actualisation of Manfred Werder’s “2005(1)”, Kahn asks:

“What does it mean to spend time in a place and just being there? Not “doing” anything there. Not making a recording. Not taking notes. Not making photos or doing anything at all but just being there?”

And a series of realities spring from a ground of faded and cracked mirrors that all show his distorted presence.)

I have no wish to imagine the events as I hear them through Kahn’s narration, in other words, as he heard them, but such is the beauty of this appr­oach. I’m glad he stuck primarily to auditory description, environment slightly muffled in its translation, because, unlike a more traditional, can I say that? field recording, Kahn is able to present as much space as he was presented or presented to himself, however you wish to put it. Reception is left in the hands of the one who is receiving, eventually settling into disposition. Opening more doors than it closes.

To quote Robert Walser, whom, I suppose in an apt sort of way, I have already quoted this morning in another text, this very quote:

“All this uproar, all the freedom of the sounds!!”


[Jason Kahn courtesy of Philadelphia Sound Forum]

Jason Kahn website
Winds Measure website