Saturday, November 7, 2015

Kangding Ray's new album "Cory Arcane" & North American Tour: Nov 5 - 13

Next week Kremwerk, MOTOR and Decibel Festival host the Seattle date in Kangding Ray's November North American micro-tour. Having followed the Raster-Noton imprint and it's core artists of Frank Bretschneider, Carsten Nicolai and Olaf Bender since the latest 1990s, it's been illuminating to see them not only defy being marginalized by the fadishness of electronic music's short 'half life', but instead to evolve in ways transcending simple codification. Some 15 years of witnessing variations on their label aesthetic seen live in cities across the continent from San Francisco and Los Angeles, to Mutek Montreal and beyond, each time the occasion marked by an evolutionary leap present in each artists performance, as well as the larger audio/visual expression of the label's continuance. The second decade of the 21st Century has yielded some of the finest work to be heard from it's roster. The collaborative Alva Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto albums are a high point, as is Carsten Nicolai's ongoing serial solo work, the Xerrox series. It's two most recent installations characterized by the enveloping vocabulary of distortion on "Xerrox Vol.2" and melodic beauty of this year's rapturous "Xerrox Vol.3". A project which when completed, will likely stand as the opus of Nicolai's recorded career. Frank Bretschneider's "EXP" was another high water mark, this boundary pushing multi-media set of abstract audiovisual sculptural objects has not seen another peer in his discography, and Olaf Bender's "Death of a Typographer" was an unexpected meeting of energized motoric Krautrock and 80's synth-pop inspired explorations.

Outside of the core ensemble that initiated the imprint, Raster-Noton has enfolded a global body of work. Ranging from Japan's urban experimental dancefloor duo Kouhei Matsunaga and Toshio Munehiro, as NHK to the DeStijl inspired dynamic austerity of Emptyset to the pure datamatic audio-visual sensory environments of Ryoji Ikeda and Vladislav Delay's improvisation and jazz-informed rhythmic wanderings. The parameters of the label's scope have expanded with the inclusion of the humor and retro-futurism of Uwe Schmidt's live sets as Atom TM, most recently seen on the media package, "HD+" and the melodic dream-ambulations of the abstract pop of Dasha Rush and this year's excellent, "Sleepstep", and the complex theoretical works of Grischa Lichtenberger "LA DEMEURE; il y a péril en la demeure", the first his proposed five-part explorations on the subject of isolation and privacy. David Letellier's Kangding Ray project has been one of the most prolific of these new artists expanding the form of Raster's conception. His recent rapid-fire trilogy of albums, "Cory Arcane", "Solens Arc" and the stylisticly divergent "Pentaki Slopes" EP that initiated his current sound. These albums marking a shift toward a more aggressive, dynamic sound comprised of pointilist digital patterns and disintegrated melodic textures that morph into suggestive rave anthems and abrasive club rhythms. The juxtaposition of these contrary elements are refitted into uneven patterns not unlike a sonic deconstructivist architecture, where industrial techno stompers dissolve into granular sound design and filtered synth pads. When it all comes together in a live setting, it's dynamic endless-detouring of the parameters of techno is something to witness.