Tuesday, April 27, 2010

KEVIN DRUMM "MALAISE" (Hospital Productions)

An extremely limited double cassette from Drumm, soon to be reissued as part of Picadisk's upcoming 5CD boxset of OOP KD material (which i personally cannot wait for.) "Malaise" is perfectly titled; the sounds on display here ride a variety of moods to their inevitable end: resignation to unease and the acceptance of sorrow. This isn't "sorrow" in the traditional sense; it's the first wash of sickness, the first clamming of the skin, the first acknowledgment that something is wrong. This is all the colour draining from the body and a cold weakness seeping in. The cover art also reflects that-the cusp of winter, the draining of colours, the wilting of leaves and the embittering of an atmosphere.
"Malaise" is divided into four lengthy sections, with each occupying a vastly different headspace and producing different effects on the listener. "Malaise 01" is a chop piece, made up of various noise clouds and free-floating skronk thrown against each other via spacing and edits, creating an incredible disharmony. Some of the frequencies Drumm works with here create a distinctly nauseating physical feeling-at certain points throughout i felt as though a swarm of bees were stuffing my ears and stinging me all over. If you looped this track over and over, eventually you would vomit. "Malaise 02" eschews the mass chopping in favor of a prolonged harsh static intro veering into a deep drift of white electric snow, an infinite strain of winds that soothe and calm (albeit into death) as much as they hurt. It's the middle of a blizzard, an image that Drumm has visited and summoned often in his compositions. This track is the most effective of the three in conveying the overall tone and idea of the record as i see it; there's a restlessness, a boredom and a deep sense of dissatisfaction and disgust lurking within. While not near as harsh as the first segment, this track goes a long way towards luring the listener deeper into a perception of illness. "dogdrone" is next, a respite of sorts, or maybe the fever and the hallucination, the sweating and the visions. thirteen minutes of gorgeous, dense, buzzing shimmery drone, unchanging but always changing, a Lovecraftian wisp of slightly ever-shifting bass tones and hot stuttery wired electricity. It's lovely and dreamy and stands at serious odds with the rest of the material; the fact that Drumm titled it differently but still considered it part of the work as a whole (the next track still advances the numeral) speaks to the feelings of distress that he infused into the track (but in KD material, no matter how serene, there is always menace.) Things end with the sickness overtaking the body, the complete physical purge of all the contagion. "Malaise 04" is KD in full noise tyrant mode, all bass throb and electric howl, terror and assault fused into one efficient rendering machine. I find it interesting that although this track is extremely harsh, it isn't difficult to listen to; rather it's almost comforting, like you know these feelings will end soon, that it's almost over, that there can be difference. Such an affirmation is hard to reconcile in a Drumm piece, but as discussed in other reviews he's an intelligent artist capable of both subtlety where you wouldn't expect and a wicked sense of humour.
"Malaise" has been maligned as something of a minor work amongst some reviewers. Perhaps the incredible limitation of the material resulted in an unfair assessment. There is nothing new here but there are plenty of variations on everything that Drumm does so, so well. "Malaise" is a towering record, another masterpiece in a discography littered with them, an epic exploration of indefinable feelings and introverted hypochondria. Surrender to the fatigue of winter; give up on it all. Accept total defeat but don't forget: things can change.

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