Akatombo: Unconfirmed Reports
Hand-Held Recordings

Unconfirmed Reports resists easy classification and I'm betting Paul Thomsen Kirk (aka Akatombo) wouldn't have it any other way. It's a mystifying project in more ways than one, as befits a CD-DVD project by an expatriate Scotsman musician/film-maker/photographer who has called Hiroshima, Japan home for eleven years (and counting). The hand-numbered, oversized envelope contains two discs, two cover inserts, one a conventional CD and the other a DVD-R, a photograph (mine's “Still #6”), and, rather inexplicably, some newspaper clippings. All well and good, but how does it sound? Forty-two minutes of harrowing and multi-limbed dub-funk-tribal-industrial-hip-hop hybrid that at times calls to mind the ten-ton relentlessness of Techno Animal's Re-Entry (in fact, the pummeling “Blood Orange” and explosive “The Sand Collector” recall that album's style so completely, they could pass for unreleased Re-Entry tracks).

Setting the tone, album opener “Friend for Hire” underscores a dense cloud of dark, industrial thrum with a swaying dub-funk pulse. While sonically arresting, the track could be deemed overly-repetitive were it not for the atmospheric ruptures that occasionally punctuate the rolling groove. “Pragmatism” is more successful, as it keeps the interest level up by despoiling its tribal-funk rhythms with a barrage of viral voice samples and derailing its flow at key intervals with a brief synthetic interjection. In “Tondo,” African percussion elements and a minimal bass line fight to be heard amidst a thick mass of guitar distortion and blurry noise, while “Cypher” anchors a beatless ambient-industrial setting of grimey synthetic swirls, piercing electrical tones, and indecipherable speaking voices with a ponderous bass line. Animated by jazzy breakbeat swing and tremolo guitar shadings, “SSRI,” the album's most accessible piece, hits commendably hard, even if its momentum is curtailed by the massive wave of industrial noise with which it collides. An encapsulation of the disc as a whole, “A Prior Disengagement” wails and squeals like a butchered pig, with a blistering hip-hop throb the anchor for a caterwaul of violent voice fragments and siren-like shrieks (Audrey Boggs' violin no doubt partially responsible for the track's squeal).

Created as a complement to the album material, the DVD-R's promotional videos are of contrasting character: “Cypher” functions as an effective visual analogue to the music, with the music's swirls matched by visuals of snow falling on Hiroshima's buildings and people; “SSRI” is posterized travelogue of people milling about the city's busy downtown; and “Hikiko Mori” shows achromatic images of buildings and patterns with their inverted black, white, and grey values lending the footage an ethereal, ghostly effect. It goes without saying that the discs collectively offer a comprehensive portrait of Akatombo's menacing Weltanschauung.

August 2009