Kazumoto Endo & Kazuma Kubota – Switches and Knobs (CD, Phage Tapes)

There’s a constant feeling during Switches and Knobs that the track has ended, that each time the clanks, whirs, and harsh lines of feedback die out, Endo and Kubota have effectively ended their track in a flustered twitch of a wrist. And even though the CD lists the track’s runtime, and even though I know that it can’t be true that the piece has ended, each cut-up chunk of sound keeps me glancing at the CD player to see if the track switches to the next.

And perhaps some would argue that the empty spaces of silence on Switches and Knobs is a testament to user error, as though Endo and Kubota have reached a blown-out level of sound where their oscillators refuse to work, where their amplifiers have effectively shit the bed because of that last furious pummeling of buzz and crunch blast. Instead, the two pieces on Switches and Knobs so effectively utilize the space between noise that each track allows for a critical reading of not just why the artists chose the seemingly random sounds that they did, but why they chose these moments to leave out noise. The space between becomes a gap which the listener must fill in.

Maybe most of us don’t listen in this philosophical way, instead wondering when Endo and Kubota will throw another blast of sound our way. But each space in the track acts as a way to circumvent listener expectations where other cut-up noise doesn’t. Will Endo and Kubota continue the sound? Will they chop the noise differently? What’s next? It’s a discourse between listener and noise that continues to speak as each track diversifies.

One cut on this disc is a studio version of “Switches and Knobs.” Almost a half an hour of cut-up sounds, mostly buzzing harshness and intense feedback sounds that rip and roar between silence. There’s also a live track included, shorter and full of that sense of audience vivacity. Obviously, the studio version feels a bit more polished, but the live version certainly showcases what Endo and Kubota can do in an improvisational environment.

This churning maelstrom is definitely worth spending some time with. The gaps between noise ensure one will find a conversation in there somewhere, even if this is cut-up noise that sounds familiar to those who’ve heard this kind of thing before.

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