1101 Jason Kahn:::: Beautiful Ghost Wave

The title "Beautiful Ghost Wave" occurred to me as I was composing the piece from different recordings I'd made in my studio during 2010. In order to keep track of all the working material I gave the different sound files names, and in this case "beautiful ghost wave" was one of them. This particular file struck me for the beauty of the peripheral sounds occurring, a kind of sonic aura hovering around the more central sounds in the recording. Thinking about this more I began to see this title as a model for the entire piece, where the partials of a sound, something analogous to "hearing between the sounds" (as in "reading between the lines") became the focus for my compositional choices.

Beyond all this "Beautiful Ghost Wave" is a bit of a departure for me in that it deals more with dramaturgy than other work of mine. I wanted to extend a sense of movement to the sounds and create a feeling of the piece expanding and contracting, both through dynamic modulation and an emphasis placed on spatiality in the stereo field. Although the piece retains a sense of forward movement and an allusion towards an impending resolution, I wanted the feeling for the listener to be of an open system, where the actual ending or further continuation of the piece beyond its actual cessation on the CD could be filled in, much as one fills in meaning when reading between the lines of a text.

I recorded the basic material using analog synthesizer, mixing board, contact microphones, short wave radio and electromagnetic coils. The recording was made with microphones placed in front of the loudspeakers and in the room directly behind where I was sitting, thus lending a sense of acoustics to the sounds I generated and recording my movement as I made these sounds. These recordings were then edited and used to compose with on the computer.

Jason Kahn

(promo clip, flac lossless)

Audio CD, 6 panels digipak
30 minutes+
Release date: Jan 2011
12 Euros + shipping order

Related resources
Also by Jasan Kahn
Jason Kahn:::: Things Fall Apart

Musically connected

Goh Lee Kwang:::: Good Vibrations

Geographically connected

Murmer:::: Frame Work 1 - 4


Vital Weekly
Now here's a change. Over the years we have learned to appreciate the music of Jason Kahn as something that is minimal, slowly moving music composed using percussion and analogue synthesizer. Drone like, introspective, derived from slowly unfolding improvisations - alone or in combination with others. This is not the case on 'Beautiful Ghost Wave'. Still at his disposal is the analog synthesizer but also a mixing board, contact microphones, short wave radio and electromagnetic coils. Kahn goes noise here. This thirty seven some minute work is divided into various movements (as one track), separated with acoustic rumbling - Kahn recorded this work through a microphone in front of his speakers and from the room directly behind - I assume the latter is when he uses only those. Feedback like, noise based sounds, static hiss and such like rule this work, which has a much more dramatic play than much of his previous work, if not all of his previous work. Kahn fans will be alarmed I guess. Its not the kind of blast of noise that say someone like Merzbow would do - maybe that would have been the work if it was directly taped from the mixing board - but it has a distinct different quality that makes it quite good and also different from the other trouble makers. I guess it has to do with the amount of variations Kahn employs in this work and the somewhat curious way of recording it, bringing in a certain amount of acoustic noise. An excellent work and a brave move for Kahn. Hopefully to be followed by more such work.
- Frans de Waard -

Just Outside

I've doubtless simply been missing one or more plies of Kahnian activity in the past couple of years, but recent examples of his work that I've heard show a decided step away from what I'd come to think of as his sound-world: insistent (one might say, obsessive) percussion-centered rhythms augmented by pitch-shifting devices. Along with the recent disc on balloon & needle, this one finds him more positioned in the broken electronics school, albeit with a fairly steady substratum that may indeed refer back to his earlier concerns.

Kahn, in his notes, mentions the piece having "a sense of forward movement" and indeed it does, pretty much hurtling through its length in a welter of acid-drenched electronics, scouring one's ears as it does so. It's very rapid. When it relaxes, it's with a sense of re-coiling, amassing energy for a further assault. But as with the drones above, there's always a level of detail that keeps me absorbed; I always have the sense that there's parts I'm not hearing, that remain to be discovered. That's a good thing.
- Brian Olewnick -

The Watchful Ear

Hmm, now this one has been a bit of a surprise… While certainly not uniformly the case, recent solo material by Jason Kahn has been mostly linear in form, often softly drone-like and layered. The title of this new release on the Herbal label, Beautiful Ghost Wave certainly pointed me in that direction as well, but on playing the CD I was surprised to find it a far harsher, seemingly wilder affair. In the liner notes that accompany the disc, Kahn mentions that this single thirty-seven minute track “deals more with dramaturgy than other work of mine”. Certainly while an element of the drone is still there, plenty more in the way of sudden events are present here than on Kahn’s other solo work.

The music here was constructed by Kahn on a computer using a number of soundfiles pulled together throughout 2010. While the final composition has been digitally collaged together, a range of analogue based electroacoustic elements were used to forge the source material- Kahn’s familiar analogue synth, contact mics, shortwave radio and electromagnetic coils. The sounds then are mostly not that beautiful, ghostly or wave-like and are often more ugly, direct and abrasive. Recently Kahn has been working from time to time with various members of the South Korean improv scene, and the edgy, harshly scoured textures of that small scene’s music definitely seems to inform the music here. It is indeed often quite dramatic, not only through the forceful nature of some of the more full-on, noisy sections that we are presented with but also through the sudden jump cuts that occur here and there as Kahn’s composition leaves viciously abrasive sounds hanging in mid air.

The sensation provided by the music is one of danger and nervousness. If the more gradually layered and softer finished sounds of Kahn’s more familiar work leans itself towards a more predictable, if very beautiful air, so the sounds on this CD feel erratic, on the edge of breaking down. Easy listening it certainly isn’t and in places the music touches on what might be referred to as the noise genre, with fiercely scoured fields rubbing themselves quite severely over small shrieking synth sounds and screeching feedback-esque slithers. It shifts gear frequently and abruptly, and doesn’t allow you to rest and relax while listening. Beautiful Ghost Wave is unsettlingly brash, almost bullying the listener rather than embracing them, not the kind of music to listen to on a quiet evening alone.

The move away from gradually building drones is a welcome one for me. The appropriation of the harder, often quite brutal sound palette also works well but only because it is arranged so nicely into the acutely divided, often violently juxtaposed brackets. In the past the group of Swiss improvisers that Jason Kahn was aligned with were often accused of making easy, flowing music that demanded less of the listener. I personally never saw all that much to agree with in that appraisal, but this new album blows away any doubts all the same. Bracing, bit not purely adrenalin fuelled stuff, this is a very nice and thoroughly welcome new feel to Jason Kahn’s music.
- Richard Pinnell -


Le label malaisien de Goh Lee Kwang nous offre régulièrement des recherches électroacoustiques de qualité et originales, et le dernier Jason Kahn - Beautiful ghost wave - ne déroge pas à cette règle. Après de nombreux enregistrements teintés de minimalisme, voire de formalisme ou de conceptualisme, cette nouvelle œuvre du compositeur suisse a quelque chose de plus rude et âpre, de plus brutal et frontal. L'atmosphère toujours saturée de cette unique pièce d'une trentaine de minutes est proche des productions harsh noise par certains aspects: une matière sonore parfois très agressive et une énergie virulente. Sauf que Jason Kahn ne se contente pas de superposer un maximum de fréquences inaudibles dans le seul but de former un mur de bruit blanc censé être joué le plus fort possible, afin de faire réagir l'auditeur de manière purement physique et épidermique. Au contraire, le traitement minimaliste que Jason Kahn pratiquait antérieurement sur les matières sonores l'amène aujourd'hui à juxtaposer les sons de manière très sensible, en accordant une place capitale à leur interaction et à leur mouvement respectif. Beautiful ghost wave est tout d'abord fondée sur une seule fréquence/bourdon(-nement) qu'on peut percevoir presque sans interruption du début à la fin, puis viennent se greffer des vagues successives, hétéroclites et dissemblables qui ne s'entrechoquent qu'avec délicatesse. Car ce compositeur suisse sait apprécier les sons à leur juste valeur, il leur laisse toujours le temps de se déployer, de vivre et de s'intégrer à la structure globale du morceau; de même l'apparition de chaque évènement sonore est minutieusement déterminée afin que jamais le changement ne soit trop brusque, ou tout au moins qu'il ne noie pas ce qui se passait précédemment. Cependant, Kahn n'hésite pas non plus à utiliser de nombreux contrastes dans les timbres ainsi que des reliefs au niveau de l'intensité, plusieurs fois, tension et saturation se résolvent presque dans le silence, puis de nouveaux éléments se superposent progressivement dans un mouvement incessant et éternel (peut-être est-ce pourquoi nous ne sommes pas face à une énième production électroacoustique aussi violente que soporifique).
Une pièce vraiment intéressante, riche et créative, qui laisse place à la sensibilité quand bien même elle se meut sur un territoire d'une violence austère.
- Julien Héraud -

Monsieur Delire

Une pièce solo étonnante de la part de Jason Kahn. Il s’agit d’une construction studio à partir d’enregistrements faits à l’aide de synthé analogique, console de mixage, micros contact, radio ondes-courtes et bobines magnétiques. Aussi bruitiste qu’à son habitude, mais beaucoup plus bruyante que ses travaux d’improvisation et beaucoup moins formaliste que ses travaux de composition (comme Vanishing Point). On sent même une pointe de théâtralité dans le flot de la pièce, assez prenante. Dans le genre “orchestration de sons bruitistes”, c’est très réussi. Kahn, toujours si mesuré, fait preuve ici d’une spontanéité rare (ou du moins donne cette impression).

A surprising solo piece from Jason Kahn. This is a studio construct from recordings made using analog synth, mixing board, contact mikes, shortwave radio and magnetic coils. As noise-based as usual, but quite noisier than his free improvisation outings and a lot less formalist than his composition work (like Vanishing Point). He even dabs in drama with how the piece flows - quite gripping. In terms of “orchestration of noise sounds”, this works out really well. The always poised Kahn here displays a new level of spontaneity (or at least gives this impression).
- Francois Couture -

Music Emissions

Jason Kahn is an alchemist who seems to prefer using the radio wave as a starting ingredient for his melancholy buy meaty sounds. "Beautiful Ghost Wave" wanders in and among sounds both harsh, subtle, conceived and eavesdropped upon. For those who are either unfamiliar with ambient noise or tired of it, the emotional power of this single 37 minute song will be refreshing and inspiring.

There is the familiar variation of tone and volume, the silences used strategically, the pulse serving as a sort of rhythm section, a base for tangents and explorations common in ambient electronica or noise, but Kahn uses them in surprising ways; maybe it is the use or implied use of radio waves, a kind of found sound and field recording at once, that gives this piece an organic, slightly acoustic feel; there is a warmth and immediacy missing from similar tonal explorations. There is an artist who is being affected by the sounds being created here; this is what makes "Beautiful Ghost Wave" an emotional experience.

The recording, according to Kahn, "was made with microphones placed in front of the loudspeakers and in the room directly behind where I was sitting, thus lending a sense of acoustics to the sounds I generated and recording my movement as I made these sounds. These recordings were then edited and used to compose with on the computer." Usually such explanations are as close as electronic compositions come to a human element. Not so with Jason Kahn's latest. This has the warm, passionate feel of an artist intimate with and invested in its seemingly random tones.
- Mike Wood -

Felthat Reviews

New York-born Jason Kahn has been growing up in LA and now relocated to Zuerich, treads since 1990's the path of multi-dimensional artist revolving around sound design and sound installations derived from the colliding percussive elements which he grounded as being a percussionist himself originally with electronic sounds based on granular analogue modulations, radio frequency shifts with the edge of lo-fi DIY guerilla filtered through cautious and elaborate editing. His work for Herbal International from Malaysia bears an imprint of losing time sequenced layering and broken loop of time continuum. The feel and the edge to it owes a lot to Jason's past sound installations and energetic but not agressive electro-acoustic well controlled noisey improvisation. Dense and refined through digital processing gives no chance to get bored with the composition which lasts a little bit over 40 minutes which is just exactly what I needed this morning.
- Hubert Napiórski -

No comments: