his is shaping up to be a fertile year for guitarist Tomas Korber. His clear melodic strumming and judicious blending of electronics on the sublime recent disc Brackwater—a quartet with improv “superstars” Otomo Yoshihide, Toshimaru Nakamura, and ErikM—was among that album’s greatest assets. Now, with a 3” on the way from Jason Talbot’s Kissy label, Korber has unleashed his first full-length solo on Mattin’s W.M.O. Mass Production won’t be much of a surprise to those who have already heard Korber in a group context, though there’s none of the un-augmented guitar that he used sporadically on Brackwater. Instead, this disc features some of Korber’s most eerily beautiful electronics work.
The album opens with some scrabbling electronic noises like marbles rolling over a bumpy surface; sounding similar to Tetuzi Akiyama’s guitar deconstruction epic Resophonie. The music slowly builds tension as a low drone hangs in the background, and as the solidness of the drone begins to take hold, it sounds like the pointillist rattles and croaks in the foreground are scratching holes in the surface of the drone. It’s clear which is going to win out in the end, though, and over the course of the next few minutes the drone slowly gains prominence, with the ratcheting electronics not so much fading out as being swallowed up by the overflowing abundance of thick droning sound, an “OM” tone that swells briefly into all-encompassing prominence, and then itself fades away to lull in the background.
As this drone fades away, Korber’s electronics unexpectedly take on a more sinister cast, the sharp blasts of distortion and cranking static riffs veering far closer to straight-up noise than the electro-acoustic scene he’s usually been associated with. But deep within the chaos, there are hints (imagined?) of ghostly guitar, a subliminal echo so subdued and hidden by the noise that’s it easy to dismiss it as a mere spectral figment, summoned by the knowledge that this is an album by a guitarist, and so somewhere in there must be guitar. Imagined or not, this haunting element gives some indication of the depth of Korber’s electronic constructions. Within each gritty soundscape, and there are a whole succession of them as this single 45-minute piece moves seamlessly from one section to the next—there lurks a whole universe of detail, long sustained tones interacting with earthier scrapes and buzzes that sound like heavily processed guitar accidents.
Mass Production is a self-assured and fascinating new work from this very promising musician. The serial nature of the piece precludes linear development, as each new segment seems to emerge spontaneously just as the last part is dying out, but this method of development allows the album to retain a continual air of wonder and surprise, as each new shift inevitably veers into totally new territory. Whether he’s working at bludgeoning noise, or a hazy gauze of high-pitched electronics, or a thick soup of sizzling raw circuits, Korber proves again and again on this album that he has a wide musical vocabulary, and he’s equally adept all over this tremendous range.
Reviewed by: Ed Howard
Reviewed on: 2004-06-16