Thursday, July 30, 2009
Axolotl - Memory Theatre
It's high time Giraffe Kingdom goes live again. Axolotl is the free-form sound project of experimental violinist/vocalist Karl Bauer, as well as his collaborators William Sabiston and Brian Tester. Memory Theatre, released in 2007, is a compilation of several of their hard-to-find releases, with quite a wide variety of atmospheres and moods. But if you haven't heard those releases, Memory Theatre will sound more like a unified album than a compilation, so it's the perfect introduction to the band. The music is extremely lush and evocative, bringing to my mind things like swarms of particles in Brownian motion, the frenzied yet precise movements of an ant colony, the boiling innards of a star, or a malfunctioning Tesla coil. Each piece is a wall of unfamiliar sounds, teeming with controlled chaos, never quite settling on any single idea, always subtlely evolving. At the same time there is a certain amount of stasis to each piece, in that a given song rarely strays particularly far from the texture it establishes at its beginning.
Aesthetically the pieces gracefully blend mechanical/technological sounds with those of a more organic/biological nature. For example, "Anamalon" bubbles with electric energy and prickly static over unsteady, wooden sounding thuds. This is followed by the gorgeous "Natura Naturans", which sounds like a field recording from some kind of magical forest with will-o'-the-wisps hanging in the air. Farfetched, perhaps, but this kind of music lends itself to such extravagant visual interpretations. Axolotl have put together a refreshing collection of sonic organisms, and aside from the last track (11 truly challenging minutes of noise) it is quite accessible, at least when approached with an open mind.