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Lokai - 7 Million

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Artist: Lokai

Album: 7 Million

Label: Mosz

Review date: Feb. 12, 2006

As it goes with so many electro-acoustic musicians, the young Austrian duo Lokai, comprised of Florian Kmet and Stefan Nemeth, have their hands in so many different projects it’s a wonder they have time to finish any of them. Kmet divides his guitar work between Superlooper and Lokai with a solo project to boot, while Nemeth’s mainstay has been the laptop-drum-bass combo Radian, whose records have crossed the Atlantic to find safe harbor in Thrill Jockey’s cadre of electronic tastemakers. Both appear at live events incessantly, lending their respective musical outs to make Vienna’s revolving avant-garde scene one of Europe’s youngest and most mobile.

That’s why it’s perhaps surprising that their first record as Lokai, mathematically titled 7 Million, embraces these prolific tendencies with open arms and yet manages to avoid the static, sterile quality of many “experimental” musics. This album indulges in some of the friendliest territory either artist has managed to put to record. Kmet, whose solo musical forays are marked by an almost desperate need to sound eclectic, finally finds a natural partner in Nemeth’s electronic fields of sound. Through changes in texture and dynamic processing, both artists slowly unwind a series of engaging, ever-changing pieces that find strong voices in both the electric and acoustic parts of their range.

Kmet plays a guitar decked to the hilt with effects, yet with Lokai these effects don’t drown out the human touch of his slow arpeggiated musings. Across Nemeth’s glowing, ambient backdrops, each note rings out like ripples in a still pond, sent to explore the seemingly endless reaches of each piece. When Nemeth picks up guitar himself, his riffs follow Kmet’s lead, contributing yet another texture to a rich melange of sounds.

The harshest these proceedings ever become is on the penultimate piece, a 13-minute epic called “Chuuk,” which slowly builds in volume until it reaches a grating climax before settling down into glitch-like crackles. Despite its length and stark monolithic presence, this kind of piece settles for a structure that too narrowly confines their otherwise freely explorative work. The album’s final track, “Hellen,” recovers our sense of wonder as it glimpses fleeting snatches of vast, endlessly-moving textures.

Though the duo crafts a delicate balance of human touch and machinated noise, these pieces aren’t mere cerebral exercises. They hint at the lushness one can find in a bare landscape, the richness in the slightest movement. And, sometimes, they’re downright beautiful.

By Joel Calahan

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