Kattoo: Places

Don't be fooled by the peaceful scenery shown on Places' cover as its music teems with the disturbed glossolalia of the urban metropolis. The debut outing from Kattoo (Volker Kahl, one-half of Beefcake alongside Gabor Schablitzki) takes a heady trip through typically threatening landscapes, with the most extreme a drill'n'bass torture chamber in “Place7.” That the album sometimes resembles a film soundtrack is understandable, as Kahl created the album using music originally created for a low-budget German porno (apparently featuring midgets and de-clawed cats, if Kahl's to be believed) that collapsed when production funding failed to materialize. Left with a load of classical-sounding music, Kahl gave it an industrial techno overhaul and in doing so created a dystopic soundtrack for the mind.

Dubby atmospheres initiate the journey in relatively calm manner, but the anguished voices, skittering hip-hop rhythms, and brooding piano chords in the next stop makes for a markedly more disturbed setting. While the itinerary features its share of meditative moments (breezy acoustic folk in “Place5,” tinkles and chimes in “Place9,” and, more powerfully, harp plucks and mournful strings in the orchestral “Place10”), there's ample drama too; following a pretty intro coupled with ominous spoken word samples, synth-driven breakbeats and massed male choirs boost “Place8” anthemically. Ferocious by comparison is the fourth track's monstrous coupling of stabbing guitar raunch and slamming drums. Scored for voice samples, piano, and orchestra, the darkly portentous “Place3” offers the most conspicuous indication of the album's soundtrack roots, though it almost collapses under the dramatic weight of its weeping strings and declamatory horns.

All things considered, it's an engrossing enough trip, the music perpetually wending its way through disparate settings. Kahl might have been wiser to end the album after “Place10,” though, as the penultimate voice piece (inexplicably, Kahl thought the seven minutes of spoken German in “Place11” would be a good idea) and Flaque's “Re-place7” remix add little and, if anything, detract from the album's overall impact.

May 2005