Kostis Kilymis brings us a strange pair of tracks on the Crystal Drops 7″. The first is a rhythmic set of analogue electronic patterns, while the second starts similarly, but quickly ascends to some carefully mixed, though seemingly otherwise unaltered, fields. Both are refreshingly poignant and purposeful.
The opening ‘Crystal Drops’ is in a style becoming increasingly fashionable these days. Or at least, it finds a balance between several: falling somewhere between the micro-trance of Presto!?, the analogue synth experiments of ((Cave)) Recordings and the noisy techno of The Trilogy Tapes. In fact, repeated listens found an early comparison to vapourwave (a spelling I will continue to espouse) becoming increasingly appropriate. To that end, the unsettling and alien rendering of a botanical landscape on the cover finds some symbolic relevance in the squelching interference towards the end of the piece (in addition to a more literal relation to the field recordings presented on the second piece).
These touchstones are all interesting enough, but the perspective from which they are approached is rather more unique. It is nice to hear this vein being mined by someone from further afield working towards the dominant paradigm, as opposed to the now common release of a ‘noise’ EP by an erstwhile techno producer. While the products of the latter are geared towards the polished and poly-rhythmic (when good, and Ableton noise plugin presets when bad), Kilymis puts the textural and timbral elements at the forefront. The result is industrial, unforgiving, and quite entertaining.
While the majority of the second piece, ‘Ground Loops (a line, obscured)’, falls rather at odds structurally with the first, this is tidied significantly by the play on both aesthetics and nomenclature between the two. It is not enough to name the sharply percussive, and frankly aqueous, synthesis of the first track ‘Crystal Drops’: it is humourously and literally mirrored by dripping water on the second. The faintly menacing overtones invoked by the atonal synthesis of the former are also carried into the latter by similarly eerie aesthetics and some abrupt editing, making this initially arbitrary pairing an effective duo on repeated listens.
It is on ‘Ground Loops’ that this EP really succeeds, with some wonderfully engaging, confrontational field recording. Frans de Waard’s characterization of the piece on Vital Weekly as a sort of radio play is very appropriate; the listener immediately starts filling in narrative elements and individual motives for the voices presented and the obtusely angled flow between fields. Indeed, in finding rhythmic and emotional parallels in otherwise completely unique sound fields, Kilymis produces one of his strongest pieces in some time.
The contextual isolation of each field is particularly effective at jarring their respective conventional connotations. While a simple juxtaposition of artificial and natural sounds would be downright clichéd, Kilymis overlaps fields with strongly converse signalling of night and day, in addition to using what would normally constitute irritants in field recordings (loud confrontational voices, aircraft overhead). ‘Ground Loops’ is densely packed with content and despite its use of archetypal sounds, piques the listener’s ear with its rapid succession of brief conflicts in source, timbre, framing and geography. In doing so, Kilymis manages to avoid both the romanticism of acoustic ecology and the crass politicization of noise.
While I trust the piece works musically for many listeners, I will confess that it is also evocative of many of my own (and I’m sure some of our readers and other artists’) urban field recording excursions. I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that despite editing, Kostis kept his nervous and/or bemused laughter at the almost palpable cloud of confrontational energy surrounding the young men (the exuberant and unprescribed nature of which may loosely be referred to as ‘anti-social’ behaviour in the UK, if I’m not mistaken), who were still polite enough to give thanks to whomever relented to taking their picture (?) – this being an example of precisely the type of aforementioned narrative guesswork that makes the recording so much fun to listen to. On a related note, I’ve been spared some uncomfortable encounters simply by the fact that a Zoom H4 bears for many a striking resemblance to a stun gun. (Actually . . . it’s caused more than it’s solved.)
Overall, an excellent entry in Kostis Kilymis’s catalogue, and one I especially recommend to those of us jaded to the art of field recording. Get it directly from I Dischi Del Barone.