CD Reviews

Monday 16th April

April 17, 2012

Its been a while since I wrote anything about the music of the Malaysian electronics musician Goh Lee Kwang. To be fair, its been a while since I was sent this newish album by him on the Herbal International label, and its only really the last few days I have got to it. I have always found his music a curious affair, somewhat raw, with an unfinished quality to it, and often very difficult to figure out exactly how the music might have been made. This new solo album, entitled _, and Vice Versa hasn’t really helped me with any of this. I quite like it, or at least most of it, but I am still in the dark about how it was made or really, who it was made for.

There are six tracks here, each with a title, though you have to go to the label’s website to discover what they are. The first of them, titled jUctIOn is a stream of what sounds a lot like long wave radio distortion mixed with the sound that early personal computers would make while slowly loading software via cassette tapes. Like much of Goh Lee Kwang’s music it feels oddly inhuman, and yet somehow also quite natural, as if a by-product of some process or other captured here. The track lasts a fraction under two minutes, but is followed straight away by the album’s longest track, the thirty-seven minute long wEIghtOfwAx which is a very different affair, a long lazy drift of vaguely ambient sound that feels like a mix of heavily reverbed, dramatically slowed down percussive sounds. Its a dreamy, sleepy piece of music that to be honest lost my attention a few times, but then perhaps that is the point, to lure the listener into a kind of dream state, particularly as the four minute track that immediately follows it is a vicious sheet of loud, piercing, noise. The track keeps stopping and starting, but essentially is a clean, metallic blast that lasts for a few minutes and clears out the sleepy cobwebs before another tiny track, the half-minute long twittering, squeaky tOuchpOInt leads us into another fifteen minutes of quiet drift in wEIghtOfdUst. The album closes with a vaguely looping, semi-technoesque pulse called EndlEss that is a lot nicer to listen to than that description might suggest, particularly as it slows, fades and gradually falls apart over its four minute duration.

Again, its hard to know what to do with this album. I find that it leaves me devoid of any emotion, neither adding tension or energy to my state of mind, and yet it somehow is attractive, if only because of its own curio value. Goh Lee Kwang makes music that doesn’t sound like anyone else right now, using sounds that veer wildly between inhospitably ugly through to sleepily soft and dreamy, avoiding any real sense of progression or musical narrative and making its mark on the listener through jarring shifts between the dynamic of adjacent tracks. Its hard to now what to make of it. listening all the way through three times tonight wasn’t all that easy, partly because concentration proved to be difficult during the longer, flatter periods, but also because when it flares up the album has you reaching for the volume dial in a hurry. A curious one then.

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