K’an – Babel

What comes to mind when picturing limited edition DIY packaging for small-run CD releases? If you’re unfamiliar with the US label Time Released Sound, then the physical manifestations of their releases have to be seen to be believed. Those who helm this project produce wonderful and quite unusual collector’s pieces, in what is evidently a sincere labour of love.

This latest TRS release is no exception: the physical edition of Babel by K’an (Rome-based sound artist Paolo Bellipanni) is magnificent. But for space reasons, let’s turn to the audio and its relationship with this presentation. We’re dealing with recordings, mostly of acoustic instrumentation or samples (of speech, places), that undergo vigorous digital processing. Granulation and other radical FX impose wandering structures and shifting dynamics directly upon the character of the piano, guitar or other source. In most cases, a fierce crescendo occurs in the latter stages of the track, somehow a natural end-point of a sense of aimlessness. At its best, it’s captivating.

As the title Babel suggests, we are probably to think of these techniques as analogous to distortions of meaning and misunderstandings caused by the disparity of multiple languages. If the unadulterated original recording represents the robust meaning, the “thing in itself”, or what was once the common ground, then the ways in which it is scrambled by inconsistent, exploratory processes reveal the shamed, punished, imperfect human subject. The object escapes us directly, but in different reflective states (dialectic, passionate, creative) we can frame it in very beautiful and chaotic new ways.

Standout tracks: Immure, Inversion of Mouth II