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Kim Cascone - Dust Theories 2: Alchemical Residue

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Artist: Kim Cascone

Album: Dust Theories 2: Alchemical Residue

Label: Anechoic

Review date: Oct. 27, 2003

It’s become commonplace – if not absurdly cliché – for ‘electronic music journalists’ to begin their reviews with some statement of the (apparent) ‘coldness’ of electronic music, proceeding to arrive at the most surprising revelation (one conjured either by smug approval or a genuine sense of the origin) that the artist under consideration is ‘warm’ and so unlike the ‘cold’ others in her or his ‘organic depth’.

(I once wrote a review for EMR that quoted at least three articles in the same issue of Grooves, each which opened with some variation upon this theme. Taken at face value, it appears the singular particularity of warmth is synecdoche for the whole trend of cold. Meteorologically speaking, this would precipitate a whirling of hot and cold pressures, blending a cyclone.)

Kim Cascone, on the other channel – as if this was somehow a platform to launch from – is cold. True, we can modify this, as it’s a bit sweeping, and our gesture is perhaps one of the coldest kisses. Again, perhaps we can say, predominantly cold, if by cold we mean a theorized engagement, at the intellectual and conceptual level, with ‘computer music’ as historical tangent, and the production of sound via random chance operations, microsonic technique, and neuron-level ambience. It’s not a surprise at all, then, to turn the wheel and realize the incredible warmth found in engaging the flesh and blood of the mind, in thinking, at the level of the concept, of one’s music. But this, today, is not our focus.

Instead, it’s the surprising level of warmth, for Kim Cascone, and the metaphoric adjectives that signify temperate experience, coursing through the body, and can only be assigned in such a context, which is this release from Cascone’s bodymind, Cascone’s breathing body of work, and the breath – even if it is faint, in its hypothermia – it emits, a warm blast that betrays its hyperthermia. Yes, Cascone’s hidden warmth.

What does it mean to say that, in the obtuse world of high-frequency drones, circulating windchimes, airy slices of crackling dust that permeate digital noise, where not a revealing slip of a bassline even dares whisper the possibility of funk – there are no basslines, just as the repetitions of sound eschew any easy meter – there persists flesh?

Let’s leave that hanging – in the air, passing through the same circuits applied to Cascone’s piece, the curves and tendrils of this purely alien soundscape that feels so close to home, a womblike circuitry not unlike the enveloping cables of the supercomputer in Superman III.

Flesh, then, exposed by these sounds, where the flesh feels both the warmth and the cold, where the taught yet supple organ of touch grants itself as that which can signal our consciousness of the temperate. Perhaps, we could venture: because we feel the cold or the warmth of the electronic neurons, we posit, a priori, the flesh.

On Dust Theories 2: Alchemical Residue, a 3” square release, Cascone enters this vacuous space only to touch upon its possibilities, in dizzying flights, a swirling tour through blips and noise that culminate with harmonic tones fading into the ethereality of binary silence. It is also his most affective, evocative piece to date – and this because it sets out to demonstrate a brainwave concept born from his writings, recorded against the backdrop of what can only be effaced through its absent acknowledgement: the body.

Haunted, then, with a sense of depth, is the uncanny movement of a cloudlike dancer that attaches itself to the interpretations of Dust Theories 2: Alchemical Residue. Residue, it would seem, of alchemy, of magick, the transmutation of substances to gold, or of sound to bodythought. The discarded particles of an encounter long lost. What residues are there, in this ancient swirl of protonic and neutonic sounds, microsounds, of that which only passed, in the dance of movement and the breath of flesh, that the brainthought so desired its severance from the living corpse?

With its own masterful execution, the living corpse gives birth, like Zeus to Athena, of the brainthought from its head, where it swirls and applies tongues to the body of sound.

Flesh, then, behind and through all the words, the viscerality of touch, of all that is excluded from the acousmatic, from the audience of the chair, the staging of the electroacoustic. Flesh returns, it haunts, this work of residue, alchemical evidence of the eclipsing tensions of humanity that whisper of eschatonic desire: to sever its bodies of art as their most brilliant execution.

By tobias c. van Veen

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