Boomkat Product Review:
Best known as a self-taught painter and photographer, Swiss art brut trailblazer Hans Krüsi was also an avid field recordist. 'ExHK' is an exceptionally bizarre patchwork of insect and cattle sounds, church bells and chants, held together by saturated weirdo percussion and snippets of decayed folk songs captured from the radio. Brilliant and completely in its own world - think early Deathprod or Danish Fluxus artist Henning Christiansen.
Krüsi had a difficult life, working as a farmhand and gardener before he started selling flowers in Zurich to scrape together a living. He visited the city by train every morning, preferring to live in St. Gallen in disused buildings where he collected old cameras and used tape recorders and began to make vivid, whimsical paintings of animals and people. In the mid-70s, Krüsi began selling his paintings from his flower stand, and soon enough people flocked to buy them, intrigued by his exuberant spirit. His sound art was comparatively less well-known, but no less fascinating. 'ExHK' was discovered by the Alga Marghen label in 2008 when they were putting together an Anton Bruhin anthology. The label stumbled across a brace of Krüsi's tapes, using them to assemble this two-sided set of the artist's most eccentric sound experiments.
Krüsi was fascinated with the outside world, as evidenced by his paintings, and his environmental recordings are similarly captivating. Recorded scrappily to half-decayed tape, they chart his environment - birdsong and church bells are mangled into rough, fluttered tones in the first side's opening moments - and give us an idea of his day-to-day. Half-heard conversations melt into distorted poultry clucks and insectoid buzzing, and footsteps and door slams mutate into deranged percussion. The most startling segment comes at the end of the first side, when Krüsi records himself banging on what sounds like metal pots and pans. A dog barks in the distance while a cock crows and children play, but Krüsi isn't deterred, making rhythms that sound somewhere between Moondog and Deathprod's spellbinding 1996 album 'Imaginary Songs From Tristan Da Cunha'.
On the flipside, deafening buzzing is interrupted by corrosive recordings of music from Krüsi's radio. The pots and pans and outdoors recordings emerge once more, occasionally broken by light expressions of delight from Krüsi, and then a looped, chirpy cabaret song fuzzes into earshot, which Krüsi duly accompanies on flute. This isn't going to be for everyone, but if you're drawn to baffling, nebulous noise tapes, freeform dictaphone recordings, percussive free improv or Henning Christiansen's narrative-driven sound art, 'ExHK' is gonna be an essential listening experience.