Kotra & Zavolonka – “Wag the Swing”

Always lush, but only part-time melodic, Kotra and Zavolonka’s Kvitnu release “Wag the Swing” is an often-fractured continuation of many ideas the pair began with their earlier collaboration “To Kill the Tiny Groovy Cat,” from Nexsound.

Constructed with bass, record players, blank CDs, voice, and “other machines,” much of “Wag the Swing” lurches from one place to another– and while everything sounds great, the brevity of many of the tracks leaves listeners little time to “inhabit” each of the strange presentations before moving on to something else. Although many tracks could easily take listeners along for quite some time, only six of the total twenty-four go beyond three and a half minutes.

Still, there are a lot of interesting sounds, and the production values are to be commended. “Swing Me, Swing You” pits a simple bass line– almost a portion of a bass line, really– against whistles, gravel scratches, popping cable noise, and a near-random pseudo-waterphone sound. The track doesn’t come together as much as it is forced to get along. Before four minutes has passed, you’re dropped into “Silver Poem,” which at barely over a minute long, is little more than a sniff of static, feedback, buzzing, and flapping strings. This might work inside the relatively common harsh noise “hit ’em hard and retreat” aesthetic, but there’s nothing harsh about this release. Despite the abundance of clipped glitches, splintered bass, and sauntering crackles; “Wag the Swing” avoids painful territory. Think Oval, not Merzbow.

Nevertheless, the times where this album fails is more due to the sheer number of new ideas being presented than any musical drought. Ironically, with so little time for listeners to adjust to the next new idea– and the subsequent array of new sounds– these incredible differences become somewhat similar, confused and mashed about in your mind; a sort of clamor unheard.

Before I finish I really have to mention the cover art for this release, which looks like a graphic score illustrated by a space-age retro enthusiast. The image you see here does it no justice– this is a gorgeous cover, with metallic inks, raised lettering, the works. It matches the extreme level of detail heard on the album, and begs to be prominently displayed.

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