KK. Null/Chris Watson/Z'ev: Number One

Number One presents five collaborative pieces from Japanese composer/performer K.K. (Kazuyuki Kishino) Null, field-recording artist Chris Watson (one-time Cabaret Voltaire and The Hafler Trio member), and project instigator (as well as ultimate arranger and editor) American percussionist Z'ev. In developing the material, the artists adhered to certain guidelines: using the structure of the Noh Theatre cycle as a basis for compositional development, and treating sound elements as ('figure') 'characters' interacting with others in a given 'scene' (soundscape 'ground'); more precisely, Z'ev's '25 binary-acoustic files' and Null's electronics and 'electro-percussions' were folded within Watson's East Africa field recordings.

Naturally, the marriage of natural and electronic sounds is arresting—how could it be otherwise?—but, even better, each contributor's style is enhanced by the others' (even if some may prefer the purity of Watson's 'natural' settings). At times the trio's collective contributions uproot the material, adding to its disorientating character (the electronic machinery in “Invocation” could be lumbering through any number of locales), while at other moments, sounds invite associative meanings (the overlapping of electronic ammo fire with vulture caws suggests violent slaughter or frenzied attack). With the mood at times threatening, even apocalyptic, the results are never less than compelling and, in their own idiosyncratic manner, musical—if that doesn't seem too absurd a word for such uncompromising soundsculpting. Regardless, settings like “Development” are remarkable. Its rather placid ambiance belies the multi-tiered sound that unfurls restlessly throughout, with slow-motion ripples, swishing, and bell rattles accumulating into an hallucinatory mélange of swarming insects swarm and elephantine croaks. Despite its 'manufactured' dimension, Number One feels wholly natural, as if someone had placed a tape device at the remote center of a jungle—home to both the churning noises of a factory outpost and the cries and howls of African wildlife—and pressed 'record.'

February 2006