Jaap Blonk – Lifespans & Polyphtong (CD Kontrans)
Dutch vocal sound artist Blonk has been working on what could become his magnum opus ; four releases on the Kontrans label capturing, according to Blonk, an overview of recent years activities using only voice and electronics. The first one released is Lifespans, which contains 1 track (indexed per 5 minutes) having a central theme in common, a highly dense homebrewed cacophony of weirdness in a controlled way. The base material is a sound fragment of 50 seconds, that gets analyzed by stretching it out in time and also playing it at different speed (ratio between slowest sample piece and fastest is 1000). The alienating result of this is a blend of free jazz, Warp’s weirdest electronic and music concrete. There’s a constant presence of what sounds like snippets (very very short fragments) of an old jazz record or so, of which the pieces create the idea of a distant recording of a strange and frightening parade, but without ever knowing for sure, as the noises that are spread across it are there to hide the true character of the record. You constantly know that something is going on, but what it exactly is never gets revealed, and leaves one puzzled.
Even more impressing is Polyphtong. The second in the series also sounds as a heavily processed piece, this time based on sounds from Blonk’s voice and mouth. Not only as everything we hear, is created by Blonk’s mouth, knowing there’s only some editing done (again according to Blonk “some pitchshift has been used to create a somewhat more percussive attack”) makes it all even more thrilling. The setting though is radically different, also the atmosphere that we enter confirms that Polyphtong digs deeper, when the bizarre play of the mouth evoke images of psycho-analytical sketches.
Where Lifespans is a dense and claustrophobic composition, Polyphtong is open, warm and expansive. This is pretty radical experimentation by a solo performer, it is both extreme electronic composition having an intimate, organic warmth as well. Maybe some of the strangest music I’ve ever heard, yet very nicely done. PvdG.