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Klimek - Milk and Honey

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Artist: Klimek

Album: Milk and Honey

Label: Kompakt

Review date: Jul. 1, 2004

Ambient should work best over the album format. The nature of the genre hints at extension, indulgence and indolence, temporal displacement. And even if the Kompakt label inserts some ‘pop’ into their ambient (thus the three-minute slices of ambient that litter their release schedule), it’s a little puzzling that the label’s ambient full-lengths are mostly disappointing. It’s up to the yearly Pop Ambient compilations to provide the hour-long, slow-drag experience most ask of this music. Klimek’s contributions to those compilations have been amongst their high-points, and his Milk and Honey 12” of 2002 was beautiful – limpid and invertebrate, ambient music that was almost dangerously drowsy.

Klimek’s music is centered on the downward plod of deliberated guitar, plucked and subtly bent, left hanging in the air to accumulate droplets of moisture. In its pre-touched state, Klimek’s guitar has the ring of desolate country about it, the pull and flow of Ry Cooder, maybe, the bottleneck blues. The artist sometimes introduces a shimmer and stammer to the sound, warping the weft of the six strings so that the notes vibrate like an atom captured in a Petri dish, a treble tremble, the goose-pimple shiver of warm fluid jacked into your spine. On “Milk (edit)”, Klimek pulls these approaches together: the result is a pond of eternal harmonics and reverb, made lyrical through small clutches of notes barely hung together. It comes close to ECM and Windham Hill territory, a threat for any guitar-ambient record, but manages to pull off the ‘most beautiful sound next to silence’ without recourse to platitudes (i.e. here is the lagoon of reverb; there is the ponderously struck guitar.)

Of course, the album was never going to work as just one sound stretched to eternity (there isn’t the clarity of composition/vision of minimalism here), and Milk and Honey falls when the flipside of Klimek’s singular sound rears its head – stasis, under-development, a music of holding patterns. Much of the record is caught in deadlock; not soporific or glorious enough to transcend its wallpaper-ambient status, too complacent to be emotionally involving, and a little too enamored of itself to sit on its hands and let the music blossom naturally, Milk and Honey forgets to breathe.

The great challenge of an ambient record – and it’s very much a cliché to say this – is that it should work as background and foreground (cf. Eno’s On Land, Aphex’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II.) Klimek inhabits a place that’s neither here nor not-there. And when a moment of genuine, ghostly beauty shines through, as on the closing “Back Against the Sea”, where Klimek simply lets things slide, it makes things a little worse. Glimpses of brilliance mired within continued underachievement.

By Jon Dale

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