Kevin Drumm/Jason Lescalleet - The Abyss (lossless)
Lossless AIFF (16bit/44.1kHz)
Sound and noise artists Kevin Drumm and Jason Lescalleet collaborate on this 2 CD set, a diverse set of sound pieces from slowly building drones to unsettling environments, with tapes punctuating the hallucinatory aspects of their rich and impressive aural tapestries.
For CD format, go to this page.
1. Dawn (0:55)
2. Anger Alert (11:11)
3. Flaws Played Thawed and Flayed (8:38)
4. Abuse (3:03)
5. Boatswain's Call (6:26)
6. Outside Now (7:33)
7. The Abyss (33:33)
1. The Echo Of Your Past (49:49)
(released July 18, 2014)
Kevin Drumm: guitar, piano, electronics, tapes
Jason Lescalleet: Hammond 136J, Casio SK5, amplified objects, tapes, Dell XPS
recorded and assemnbled May 2013-June 2014
photography by Audrey Lescalleet
design by Yuko Zama
The Abyss is an epic, dynamic statement that shows the wide range of sound these two esteemed artists are capable of creating. The lengthy list of instruments used, plus the year it took to assemble, gives an indication that there is a grander modus operandi at play here than the linear works that Kevin Drumm and Jason Lescalleet are known for. CD-1 is made up of seven pieces that run the gamut, with electronic crackle, digital shards of noise, piano mangle, and even dissonant brass clusters that wouldn't sound out of place in a Hermann Nitsch 'Aktion'. The second half of the disc is taken up by the title track, which lives up to its name. Over 34 minutes in length, cavernous drones ebb and flow in a way that recalls Drumm's more sedate work on Imperial Distortion and Tannenbaum.
CD-2 features a single 49-minute study that ranges from shrill electronic pitches ping-ponging around the stereo field to ominous atmospheric tone clouds to low-end rumble. It's near impossible to tell who contributed what here, even though the credits list the particular instruments played by Drumm or Lescalleet. Like the best artists do, they have surrendered their individuality for the greater good of the whole. The Abyss is a compelling summation of their talents.
Jason Bivins, Dusted
Two of the more consistently unpredictable electronicians in American music, the idiosyncratic Kevin Drumm (here credited with guitar, piano, electronics, and tapes) and Jason Lescalleet (Hammond 136J, Casio SK5, amplified objects, tapes, and Dell XPS) collaborate regularly with others but tend to release the bulk of their work as solo artists. Lescalleet’s exuberant tape constructs find him exploring the intersection of drone, collage, musique concrete, and even the occasional screwed-up classic rock nugget (if you haven’t heard his majestic transformation of “Blinded by the Light,” you need to).
If we wanted to locate a common denominator, we could say he’s interested in highlighting and subverting the voice perhaps. Drumm, on the other hand, is known primarily for his equal facility in sonic assault and spare tension. Each matches humor and mischief with ambition and innovation. But even knowing these propensities, this two-disc whopper is inscrutable.
Faint birdsong opens the set, as the 55-second “Dawn” is garlanded just so by an electronic rustle (shades of Toshiya Tsunoda here). But this is just a context to scramble, an expectation to tweak (yet they don’t indulge in these so perfunctorily as for this itself to become formalized). Immediately, there are severe drill-bit formations on “Anger Alert,” an aggressive hissing and whining that recedes only occasionally. What would it mean, however, to play music like these without mere confrontational tactics or without simply settling into the long-form drone? As if on cue, midway through its duration the piece drops off abruptly to reveal a chorus of rusty gongs and bells at the bottom of a well into which you’ve cocked your ear. And then — why not? — a kung fu movie horn fanfare capped off with a Hammer horror organ flourish (riding out on subtle vinyl clicks and pops) that experiences a transfiguration: it rises up into prayerful church organ, in response to which mangled and slurred congregations chant briefly, before the kung fu movie returns in screwed and distorted form.
Transformations and jarring juxtapositions aplenty, right? Not exactly. “Flaws Played Thawed and Flayed” is a piece that turns itself inside out rather than embracing disparate elements. Its base materials are steam-valve hiss and singing metal that sounds like it’s buckling as it’s bowed, like rubbed glass inside a torture chamber or Harry Partch instruments abjected. There are interesting gestures layered in to tease you with the idea of punctuation (a door closing, an echo-soaked thwack), but what they do is somehow extend the piece by transform its continual environment as if each detail became a pivot point allowing the broader performance to pinwheel you around disorientingly. Lescalleet continually creates reverb into infinity, even as the whole is tethered to some sepulchral chamber vibe. A resonating arpeggio emerges mid-way but fades away like mangled tape to reveal the sound of detuned pianos played back on a shitty cassette deck.
With “Abuse,” Drumm and Lescalleet return to the world of head-scratching juxtapositions: a forest thicket played back through Morse code rises like sheet metal waved in an echo chamber; then the video game Defender achieves sentience and corners you; then you are bestride an idling dumptruck. After an interruptive beginning (a voice is heard saying “wait a minute … okay”), “Boatswain’s Call” rips off a barrage of electro-clicks and squeaks that cohere into a resonant, chiming slab of sound. Its audible keyboard sources and repeating thrum in the undergrowth recalls Ambarchi.
The low hum and insect chorus of “Outside Now” contains ghost tones striving to emerge at its center, spinning orb of differential pitches, their relation not consonant but tensile. They beget a shuffling rhythm of whirring blades, growing almost ridiculously harsh before it drops out to reveal voices once more: “You got that?” “Yeah.”
The 33-minute drone title track rolls along, not exactly placid but suggesting a mood of immersion rather than buffeting. Towards the 20-minute mark, some mid-range tones fade in and out, adrift and calling from a distance as they bend slightly in ways that remind me of Jacques Dudon. Even more expansive is the second disc, the entirety of which is taken up by the 50-minute “The Echo of Your Past.” It’s almost as if they take some of the sonic elements from “Dawn” (bird and traffic noises) and unfurl them as the steady electronic underbelly of the piece. The piece doesn’t so much move between phases as it steadily transforms the basic strata. First they crumble, then a low hum is stacked atop sine waves to grow and thicken the piece once more.
The elemental materials are harvested for construction, then broken down; tinder is gathered, then burnt in the organ and flame that conclude the disc. Fascinating throughout, even if (or because?) you’re not quite sure what’s happened.