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KK Null and Daniel Menche - Raijin

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Artist: KK Null and Daniel Menche

Album: Raijin

Label: Asphodel

Review date: Oct. 6, 2006

Those tuned into the world of noise will need no introduction to either of these players, top names as they are. For others, some brief background. KK Null first came to prominence here in the U.S. as the leader of ultra-heavy rockers Zeni Geva, but has been crafting experimental and noise sounds for two decades, including numerous collaborations with everyone from Jim O'Rourke and Merzbow to Steve Albini and Fred Frith. On this side of the Pacific, Menche is known for grimey, intense walls of scuzz that could peel the paint off your barn.

Named for the Shinto god of thunder, Raijin might be expected to be a no-holds-barred noise assault, but Null and Menche surprise by holding back; not in a weak way, but in a calculated, composed manner. These five unnamed tracks explore nothing so much as darkness and controlled chaos -- the sound here is deep and dense and quite purposeful. The duo didn't just press 'record' and let loose; they clearly thought it through, decided what they were after, and focused on the results.

Ranging in length from six minutes to 15, the tracks lack titles but are individualized and don't sound the same. Nonetheless, it's difficult and probably not worthwhile to attempt to describe each one separately. The album flows directly from each into the next, but each change makes itself felt. From the first piece's expanding swaths of dirt, fuzz and fractured electronics, the listener is dropped into the almost beautiful cavernous space of the second track, an eerie atmosphere of clunks, digital clicks and pops, and echoing trumpet. It builds into a clattering speed demon of tribal drums and hovering electronic tones, a feeling to which the album returns during the last track. Elsewhere, Null and Menche indulge in harsh, rumbling fields of sound, completely hypnotic rhythmic noises, and, towards the end, pummeling, harrowing storms of percussive distortion as a trumpet blares as if calling from the far side of the Grand Canyon.

Raijin isn't about power through aggression and sheer density, but about detail, composition and feeling. It's a great collaboration from two masters of sonic experimentation, and would be an ideal example the next time anyone expresses skepticism that noise recordings are all the same. This is pure, and successful, sound sculpture – that is, the crafting of sound into the desired shape.

By Mason Jones

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