Boomkat Product Review:
Important Congolese field recordings made in 1952 & 1957 by legendary ethnomusicologist Hugh Tracey are fed through the IRCAM prism by Mike Kitcher, with results that speak to a heady place out of time and space in the creation of what might be termed ‘new exotica’ - a music created from a very specific location that becomes placeless through abstraction. It's an incredible addition to this excellent, bijou imprint.
We’ve previously heard Peder Mannerfelt do something similar with The Swedish Congo Record, as well as Beatrice Dillon & Rupert Clervaux with Studies I-XVII For Samplers and Percussion, and likewise heard Rashad Becker take that concept to the next level by imagining a whole new sonic language, syntax and culture of notional species. But Kitcher’s efforts stand somewhere in between those approaches, taking those pioneering field recordings and techniques as the basis for a set of subtle yet radical inversions of that material, and in the process focussing in and releasing their uniquely inflected spirits and expressions through sleight of hand and ear.
In an attempt to reflect Hugh Tracey’s technique of live mixing multi-instrumental tracks with a hand-held microphone, Kitcher limits himself to brief samples, effectively plucking sounds from the ‘air’ of Tracey’s view, and, with almost sci-fi levels of forensic detective work (think Deckard as Denny with an Esper machine), zooms in onto their hidden moments of breath, pensive silences and the tactile haptics of performers and their instruments.
Those peculiarities are “scrubbed” of air and return sounding remarkably different, with flutes appearing like voices or vice-versa, and luma pipes sounding more like middle-eastern microtonal traditions than sounds we’d usually associate with the Congo. Each piece offers captivating new perspectives on what you thought you knew, or think you’re listening to, with incredibly rich results for keener ears to marvel at and pore over.