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Koen Holtkamp - Gravity/Bees

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Artist: Koen Holtkamp

Album: Gravity/Bees

Label: Thrill Jockey

Review date: Nov. 1, 2010

Well-regarded for his experimental solo works and engaging electro-acoustic collaborations with Brendon Anderegg as Mountains, Koen Holtkamp here offers two compositions in the 15-minute range. “In the Absence of Gravity Please Note the Position of the Sun” is gently epic, with luscious drones establishing a slowly changing pulse. Time is cut and staggered as the gentle sweep of the harmonic wash becomes a field for warm percussion sounds in a complex and tabla-esque subdivision of time and pulse. Over time, the changing relationships might suggest a hanging mobile, showing different facets and aspects as the elements move in time and space. All this is submerged for a time in gorgeous gray-toned drones, before something seems to lift, and new vistas arrive again.

Less pastoral and more dramatic, “Loosely Based on Bees” begins with what seems to be field recorded static and hiss interacting with a confluence and colloquy of heavily filtered long-toned drones that pulse and throb at times like a slowed-down Terry Riley tape-delay piece. What’s remarkable here is the way Holtkamp keeps his colors defined and clear, even as they are stacked and layered into an all-pervasive density of sound and texture. (Some of the synth tones here are somewhat reminiscent of vintage Cluster and Eno — the timbres and textures imbued with organic-sounding hues and pigments.) Eventually the piece moves from trance into a slow-burning, distorted rock energy, becoming monumental and monolithic, yet still shining with those transparent layers of color.

Subtly imaginative in their conception, and confidently wrought in their realization, Holtkamp’s two pieces and their unfolding vistas will bear repeated visits.

By Kevin Macneil Brown

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