Jonathan Kawchuk: North (Paper Bag, 2018)

February 1, 2018 at 9:13 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Jonathan Kawchuk: North

Composer Jonathan Kawchuk’s first album for Paper Bag is short, at only 25 minutes, but colossally ambitious. Kawchuk spent two years recording dozens of musicians and field recordings across several countries. Just look at the liner notes for a credits puzzle possibly even more complicated than the one for Syro. On top of all of this, Kawchuk played the recordings through speakers in the forests of the Jostedal National Park in Norway, so that the natural wildlife ambiance is embedded into the album. Musically, it’s a mix of acoustic, orchestral instruments, electronic processing (making the instruments sound like they’re disintegrating at times), and natural resonance. On “Aware”, there’s some slightly jarring bass rumbling underneath, bringing to mind that one moment on The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid. Even more dissonant is “Fast Twitch”, which starts with a louder, compressed noise for a few brief seconds, before cutting out, and then clusters and waves of instruments slowly creep in. As complex as the album seems, there’s moments that are incredibly sparse and minimalist, such as the delicately hypnotic “Ebb”. Closing piece “Lagos” has more voices than the preceding tracks, but they almost sound like they’re trapped in the forest and calling out for help.

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