As a member of the raster-noton family, Kangding Ray and his music are necessarily concerned with the click-clacks of minimal electronic sound design; conceptualised through artistic missives and scientific sequences; and realised through experimental projects, publications and installation works…. etc., etc. and more etc.
Heck, to top all of that, this latest effort of Kangding’s is even powered by firm philosophy, a cultural critique of sorts. OR in English means, er, choice; in French, its the chemical element of gold; footnotes like these have something to do with the album’s theoretical take on consumerism and civilisation. I think. If unlike me, you don’t have a headache by now, head over to the raster-noton website for a more detailed description of the meaning behind OR. Meanwhile, back to the music...
Which, by the way, is the one thing that sets Kangding Ray apart from both peers and comparisons. Clearly, OR struts a similarly avant-garde compositional line threaded by label mates Alva Noto and Byetone, while also blurring dance music’s genre polarities a la Monolake. Yet, art for art’s hogwash aside, it is the defining musical quality of OR that will once and for all distinguish him from said company: this is a beguiling mould of actual songs, dense with brooding drama and rhythmic meditation.
It all makes for an engrossing listen, and even more impressive is the artist’s skill in having what you feel clash with what goes in your ears. Yes, the glacial undercurrents and cloaked melodic progressions are detectable, and help maintain the hearing angst-perience. But at the same time, Kangding’s tracks haste and heave with volatile glitch and skewed beat elegance, rendered through spartan rigor and ironclad funk – its dance music for a really cool party none of us have discovered yet. ‘Leavaila Scheme’ provides the evidence, accompanied by murky guitar contortions:
The rest of the suite is a coherent echo of this same aesthetic, making for a refined, low-end monolith of sound beatitude away from a scene obsessed with bigger, harder, louder. OR represents another intense and outstanding declaration by one highly forward-thinking electronic musician, and may just be the year’s best … wait for it… techno, bass music, electronica, (insert every other dirty word of a genre) release-in-one.
03. Odd Sympathy
04. Pruitt Igoe (OR Version)
07. Coracoid Process
08. En Amaryllis Jour
09. Leavalia Scheme
11. La Belle