Karkowski & Co. MP3s

Listening to a live recording of noise-meister Zbigniew Karkowski on an MP3 has about as much fidelity (in the general experiential sense of the word, as well in the more common audio one) as watching the big weekend game on a countertop TV the size of a small loaf of bread. Such an MP3 is almost an absurdist document, like a cellphone snapshot of a ballet. A Karkowski performance is a visceral thing, something you prepare for with earplugs and a solid meal, something you feel, not just the thick waves of sound punching your gut, but the air currents that emanate from the speakers to brush your cheek and make your pants flap. Promoters of Karkowski’s brand of avant-garde noise are aware of his exacting standards. Take, for example, a gig he played last March in San Francisco at Naut Humon’s Compound with the groups Fe-mail and Rajar. Shortly after his set started, he began moving around (and under) the venue’s central control table, fiddling with cables and devices. It seemed like he was adjusting the considerable noise that filled the small room, especially as his face took on an aggravated look that matched the aggression of his sound. As it turned out, though, he was simply frustrated with the sound: it wasn’t loud enough for him. All along he’d been attempting to pump up the volume, and when he’d determined that the Compound’s system wasn’t up to the task, he simply stopped.

Based on that experience, it’s unlikely that Karkowski would be enthusiastic regarding the 25-minute live track that’s half of the new release from the Noisejihad Live! netlabel (noisejihad.dk/netlabel). It presents such a thin layer of audio that it seems less like a Karkowski performance, and more like a single sound element from a Karkowski performance. It may be helpful to keep in mind, when listening to it, that this isn’t an ear’s memory of the event; it’s a microphone’s. Still, like an anecdote from a traumatic incident, the track does provide a useful vantage on the live show, tracing the shape of the set, from its opening static through periods of brash chaos and absolute silence. As such, it’s a bit like listening to a blueprint. (Also, you can’t help but wonder if those moments of silence were, in fact, moments of intense noise that simply overwhelmed the mic.)

This is the fourth release from Noisejihad Live!, and as with the previous entries it bears the date of the concert as its title (15/04/2005: April 15 of this year) and pairs two acts. Following Karkowski’s entry comes one from Fl/ex’0. With its insistent beat, the latter’s set is much more, in a word, knowable. Its pace slows after 10 minutes, from industrial pummel to something with a bit of swing, broken up by what sounds like the marriage vows of a sex cult. The show was recorded live at the club Splab in Aarhus C, Denmark; more info at splab.dk.

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