On (Re)Construction (1, 2, 3) Montreal- based Alexeï Kawolski brings a crushingly glitch and industrial laden style of heavy to your ear goggles. But be forewarned, as Kawolski is boldly prescribing the largest non-lethal dose allowable with a 3 CD set that clocks in at just about two and a half hours. So clear the calendar and warm up your favorite listening spot.
When listening to an artist who can be classified as glitch, it is inevitable that one will hear remnants of Autechre or Aphex Twin and that is true here with Kawolski as well. What makes Kawolski’s take on his glitch forefathers unique and intriguing is how he mixes that influence with (presumably) a listening life littered with albums from Muslimgauze, Vatican Shadow, and Speedy J. For the purposes of this review, the nexus of these influences has compelled me to coin the micro-genre term (something I normally despise) ‘GlitchDoom’. Kawolski often uses super reverbed-out, distant and slim snare hits that recall the Post-Industrial sounds capes of Muslimgauze and Vatican Shadow. And while those artists often come with wave-upon-wave of familiar variations on form, Kawolski flexes a freedom in creating his music, with a proclivity to do what he hears. This organic growth and shift of rhythms and sounds recalls Speedy J’s A Shocking Hobby, as they both seem to allow the tracks to morph on their own, imbuing them with will. As for the Aphex connection? Well, it seems both artists have an almost ‘screw you’ ethos to making whatever the hell they feel like, so there!
Yet, where Richard D. James is the crown jester, Kawolski seems content to be a curmudgeonly blacksmith, hammering away in some dungeon forge. There’s a wonderful violence to his deconstruction of forms and genres, as if he simultaneously loves his machines, but is beating on them like a frustrated deity. A very ominous output, to say the least, this is a drum machine and his synthesizer buddies on a dark dystopian journey…no doubt.
I would love to see the confused attempt at a dancefloor during one of his performances, particularly during a piece like “Motor Spasm (cd1)”. During the 7-plus minute track, rhythm patterns fight each other, each rising to the top of the scrum and then being pulled back into the melee again. Imagine a feeding frenzy of digital carrion eaters all alighting on a fresh corpse after weeks without food. This sense of rise and fall tug-of-war between layers in any given track is a huge element to (Re)Construction and it surfaces again and again throughout this massive undertaking. For example, “Erosion (cd1)” is a relatively quick beat evolution and then destruction. The way a river, eventually, will carve its way through a mountain range. It feels enough like a HipHop beat in the midst of all that glitch that you can almost hear some Lorn or Deru, but the aesthetic comparison stops there. The drums are more expansive than the central operating system in Tron, towering reverb amongst hard 808 thumps.
Whereas Muslimgauze and Vatican Shadow employ their rhythm structures to evoke the machinistic, assembly line complexion of modern Capitalist life, Kawolski is more prone to building tension with his drums. In “Passage 1 (cd1)” he subtly lets them instill a fear of the other shoe dropping for his listener. The rest of the track showcases that dry, steely industrial prowess. It buzzes like a tattoo parlor in someone’s nightmare, but somehow retains a very meditative quality; the thin line between “Om” and a florescent bulb trudging its way through its last days in a truck stop bathroom. The beat, unchanged, plods along like a drunken anger looking for a fight; slow enough to keep an unfaltering pace and scan the room for something to antagonize. It brings an unease to the entire room. Then again, with “Passage 2 (cd2)”, the drums almost suppress the cavernous, hollow synthesizer, like one man deciding to drown another instead of baptizing him. And yet, somehow the drowning man resists and rises up from near death, casting the drums aside like an unwelcome doctrine. Also of note here is the fact that there are many ‘companion’ tracks on this expansive set. Obviously, “Passage” 1 & 2, but also “Emperator 3 (cd2)” acts as a mid-album bookend or twin to “Erosion 1”, the beat slowly returning from a bit-encrusted maelstrom that was set down by the predecessor track.
In the end, unfortunately, this project may have been too heavy to stand up to over 3 discs and 2.5 hours. I certainly like the music and the project’s girth did nothing to invalidate ecstatic moments as my roommate and I listened, but maybe it could have been released in installments. To be clear, this is my only criticism, that as an introduction to an artist, it seems a bit front-loaded to wade through nearly an anthology’s worth of tunes. As it stands, (Re)Construction could have been well served by ending with one of my favorite tracks, “Assekrem (cd3)”.
“Assekrem (cd3)” is best described by my initial reaction to my roommate, “It’s like building a digital anthill!” It really is the perfect way to go out, a real banger of a beat and a powerful ending. Kawolski starts killing the beat at around 8:59, leaving the smallest traces to lump out the remainder of the track and then allowing them to resurface a minute later to die a buzzing Kaos Pad death. The track oscillates and squirms like a worm in metamorphosis to becoming the Kwisatz Haderach. Thus, in a narrative sense, that sounds like a perfect place to rest all your circuitry and toys and go have a pint at the pub! (Gabe Bogart)