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Old Man Diode & Rick Holland
The King Krill Scott Graves , April 11th, 2013 11:50

When music is incomparable, there must be reasons. Like it or not, we, as listeners, are conditioned to hear music in conventional terms. Rhythm, melody, harmony, and percussion unite in combinations of sounds that engage awareness, emotion and listening pleasure. Only styles change.

But this is not the whole of it. On that rare occasion when artists glimpse new directions, and plunge ahead to see what lies in that uncharted territory beyond instrumentation and arrangement, genre and style, a different expression takes place - and the narrative is permanently altered.

The King Krill, featuring I am Fya, Beth Rowley, Chris James, Onallee, and Andrew Plummer, as brought into being by producer Old Man Diode and poet Rick Holland, makes this leap, and to be absorbed its richness is to experience music that is sui generis, so far removed from both the unorthodox and mundane that it delineates its own fully-formed aesthetic.

It's a vision moving in a synthesis of word, voice, and electronica that connects and expands outside expectations for lyrics and music. Within the album's luminous production, Old Man Diode's fractal tone designs, imbedded as they are in asymmetrical beat clusters, form the setting through which Holland's ambiguous poetic language emerges. The result, in each vocal's presentation and attitude, is an intense expression of feeling given character, as if in a novel or film. Rather than emotive drama, one hears the subtlety and nuance of intimacy that grows more complex with repeated listening.

Listeners familiar with Drums Between The Bells and Panic Of Looking, Rick Holland's 2011 collaborations with Brian Eno, will note the distinctive qualities shared by those works and The King Krill in combining musical and poetic elements. Each approaches and explores sound settings for voices from various artistic perspectives that bring to life diverse atmospheres and moods, and all three reflect creative interaction and experimentation seasoned over the past decade. As a poet of critical imagination and integrity, Holland proves at ease with both the ethereal atmospherics of Eno's arrangements and the elastic sonic power Diode wields with energetic bravura.

Begin anywhere, forget linearity. To listen to The King Krill is to be immediately impressed with its maturity and brilliance. Beth Rowley's ethereal clarity of voice enlivens 'Open Blue', (first heard on last year's video release), lifting its sonic elegance to great heights. Or fall back to the thirty-seven minute work's beginning, 'Love Parade', in which I Am Fya spins tantalizing vocal mischief through a shifting unpredictability of percussion, fetching melody into driving chaos and unexpectedly taming it.

Aficionados of dance music will enjoy myriad phantasmagoric House spirits, dervish Footwork-flavoured beat punchouts and pulse-seizing slash-and-spark Dubstep swordplay, yet the poetic art asserts itself throughout. With Chris James's delivery on 'Still Silver' the leap extends into territories tuned to free and fusion jazz, at a yearning, cool distance from Miles Davis and Chet Baker, but still within the realm of improvisation and soul.

The listener takes this caravanserai for the inner ear, as it were, through tube station to rocky tor, over blasted heath, dance floor and industrial park, into a personal atmosphere of being, then round and round the ever present struggles of idea and emotion human experience makes constant. The resulting flavours are those of order brought to chaos brought to order and around again: "To work out the meaning you misunderstand it all… / We try to give the world an order / The order is already here."

And between Holland's grasp at meaning and Onallee's expression of 'Order', so the sound and vision is shared realization between artists and audience. That sound is filled with human warmth and spirit, even - maybe especially - in a track like 'Stink', wherein Andrew Plummer takes on the poem's existential conflict like Camus' Sisyphus, lost and far away, and makes myth immediate. It is all more than merely startling to the sensibilities.

Moving, breathing, unafraid to measure the beat according to the byte, Old Man Diode and Rick Holland know the ground they tread, where it comes from, and where it's going in the spell The King Krill ignites. Set expectations aside, feel it move, and in moving, take it in.

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