(Kaon 2012)

‘n.RioTau’ by Artificial Memory Trace (aka Slavek Kwi) is kaon’s second issue of the third season of The River cd series. ‘n.RioTau’ is inspired by a series of recordings made around the Taurion Valley near the French city Limoges.

At just over 20 minutes, the work is characterised by processed watery field recordings (obviously), a sense of unpredictability marked for example by the sudden intrusion of a distinctive and contrasting electronic timbre (5:40) and generally by fast and hard cut-and-paste techniques. The work overall takes the tried and tested approach of offsetting the environmental sounds with various ambient textures which border at times on pitched spacey drones.

Water is difficult to record well and to re-present in such a way that the listener remains engaged. Kwi on the whole makes a good job of avoiding the obvious by varying his tactics: for example by having the water sounds suddenly burst in on you.

[Slavek Kwi. photo courtesy of Kaon website]

There are well placed biophonies – a beautiful polyphony of birds and a hint at the establishment of rhythms. The work ends with a fine bloopy coda, marred only by an odd and unnecessary out-of-place acousmatic gesture.

So here we have lots of little elements combined and recombined as the work progresses. The polyphonic treatments are simple but effective, as are the contrapuntal passages.

Something new leaves something old behind, possibly teasing out a pleasant analogy of a journey along the river. As an overall impression I’d say that much of the work’s ‘musical’ intention converges on the aesthetic of a soundtrack for film. There is no deep morphological or timbral investigation or examination of complexity such as we find in Giancarlo Toniutti’s igilagiilal aglalgal (was brought together in baidars)

What I find encouraging about this release, and having heard the artist’s previous work, are the hints of an original voice in an overcrowded and very noisy marketplace. Slavek Kwi shows here a very keen awareness of the potential of sound to evoke mood, atmosphere and abstract narrative.

-Caity Kerr

Slavek Kwi website
Kaon website