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One and Many

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Album Review

In ElectroStatics, Zbigniew Karkowski used shortwave radio as a recurring theme. In One and Many, there is no such "reality anchor," only noise. Then again, few artists can turn noise into such an expressive instrument. Karkowski shapes noise; he sculpts it into smooth curved surfaces, then sets up a small aural camera to move along its curves. Layers of white noise approach and recede like waves on the shore; walls of electrical sounds crumble down and rebuild themselves. The landscape is constantly changing, ground textures mutating slowly, buildings passing by, the whole view occasionally blocked by startling apparitions. The single 41-minute piece is extremely dynamic but not that harsh; it flows generally smoothly from one section to another, its fluctuating rhythm (here a fast-paced succession of events, there an elongated episode of relative stillness) keeping the listener hooked. Merzbow works mostly by accretion and oversaturation. In One and Many, Karkowski approaches noise almost like an orchestral (or musique concrète) composer would conceive an orchestral piece, varying dynamics, colors, and textures, yet keeping everything under strict control, placing every note by following an inner logic that should impose itself without explanation on first listen. That is exactly what happens here, at least for the first 35 minutes or so. The final minutes are spent on a drone that grows disappointingly sedate (except for one violent electrical burst that will have you jump out of your seat). That questionable coda aside, this is a very strong piece of sound art. ~ François Couture, Rovi

One and Many, Zbigniew Karkowski
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