Boomkat Product Review:
One of the last, genuinely great, unsung artists of 20th century composition, Roland Kayn (1933 - 2011) - a sometime member of Gruppo Di Improvvazione Nuova Consonanza and the pioneer of what he termed Cybernetic Music - made some of the most breathtaking, intrepidly advanced electronic music ever recorded. The 14 hour expanse of A Little Electronic Milky Way is Kayn’s late major opus and forms a stargate-like introduction to his modular macrocosm, a place where many ideas of C.20th composition, from serialism to jazz and artificial intelligence, collapse into bewildering harmonic, metric and timbral structures practically unprecedented within his field. And mark our words, that’s not hyperbole: this is proper Enter The Void music.
A Little Electronic Milky Way of Sound is Kayn’s first, posthumous release since Multiplex Sound-Art  and forms a staggering summation of his concept and aesthetic, which was first hatched when a series of 1950s broadcasts from WDR in Cologne named The Sound of Electronic Music prompted the then 20 year old artist to think that “a composer, like a painter, could realise his work without the help of other people. That he can handle the material directly and creatively edit it”.
He subsequently completed his studies as an organist (later applied to his work beside Egisto Macchi and Ennio Morricone in Gruppo Di Improvvazione Nuova Consonanza) and farther developed his concept of electronic music under the tutelage of Boris Blacher, Josef Rufer, Fritz Winkel and Oskar Sala (seminal composer of FX for classic Hitchcock flicks) in Berlin, grounding a sound which would come to pre-echo mankind’s push toward a form of AI, and serve to touch the very limits of human-machine imagination and perception.
A few years ago we were left reeling from a chance encounter with Kayn’s work, ironically enough offered up by YouTube’s recommendation algorithm, which pretty much turned our listening lives upside-down and inside-out. A keen investigation of Kayn’s composition ensued, which only confirmed our initial thoughts: this guy is light years out on his path; and how on earth is his music not better known?! We clearly weren’t the only ones to think so, and, now following their re-mantling of downtown legend, Julius Eastman, Frozen Reeds have grasped that task with both hands on this mind-expanding new release.
A Little Electronic Milky Way of Sound effectively charts all aspects of Kayn’s unfathomable, algorithmically weft sound c. the era of his early boxsets Simultan, Makro, Infra and Tektra - from pineal-smudges and clouds of harmonic colour to fractured staccato pulses and keening, outer space dynamics usually only witnessed by Gods or astronauts. Mercurial by definition, elusive in nature, but gargantuan in scope and scale, it sounds as much like the inexplicable abstraction of a half-recalled, formative fever dream as your first K-Hole experience or some transmission from another galaxy, most effectively representing or emulating a sound which exists in our shared cultural imagination, but which has never before been generated, realised quite so vividly, and yet intangibly.
The implications of this sound are multitudinous. On the most fundamental level, he comes as close or closer, and earlier than any other composer to letting his machines speak their own language - and effectively years before Autechre, Keith Fullerton Whitman, the CCRU or Eno probed this same area. On another, connected level, his realisation of atemporal, atonal depth of field and mutably dissolved metrics can be said to consolidate myriad musical forms in a way that’s hardly been bettered (perhaps because so few knew of his examples), hinting at an atomic universality of all things that perhaps even transcends consciousness and gives a fascinating shape and formlessness to some of the C.20th’s most important ideas about AI and that old chestnut; where to next?
The fact that Roland Kayn did all this before most of us were even born, and he and his work still remains sorely unsung, is as humbling as it is frustrating. Kayn’s recordings described the future in prophetic terms and pretty much reset the last quarter of the C.20th in our books, making much extreme electronic music recorded during the interim seem pedestrian by comparison, and likewise makes a lot of deep space ambient seem like a kid’s picture book compared to his Hubble-scoped deep field projections.
Even more so now, in the age of everything at a touch and reams of modular explorers, Kayn’s music formidably generates a genuine, synaesthetically enhanced feeling of the unknown that’s sadly all too rare in modern electronic music, despite being the thing that probably attracted many of us to its putative charms in the first place.
We recommend serious time away from the laptop/desktop and getting right inside Kayn’s matrix, if only at the risk of coming out looking like Niander Wallace days later.