Klimek: Milk & Honey

Play Random Inc.'s Tales of the New Jerusalem and Manual's Into Tomorrow in succession and you'll be hard pressed to imagine two more contrasting recordings, the first an experimental work by Sebastian Meissner of conceptual and musical distinction, the latter an impressive debut of melodic electronica from Jonas Munk. Now play two new recordings, Klimek's Milk & Honey and Manual's The North Shore, and you'll hear complementary recordings of guitar ambience. Yet—surprise—Klimek is another alias for the multi-faceted Meissner. Klimek's no Kompakt newcomer, having appeared on the 2003 and 2004 Pop Ambient outings, so the artist's meditative and contemplative style will be familiar to Kompakt enthusiasts.

Milk & Honey presents a spacious, slow-motion sound that alternates between resonant acoustic and electric guitar strums and reverberant patches of ambient shimmer. Dramatic plucks appear abruptly like exploding fireworks, interrupting the droning haze. Of course, anyone looking for conventional development within a given piece will have to look closely as what development there is is subtle. To cite one example, the background in “Sand” gradually grows in density over the course of its seven minutes, becoming faintly more industrial, while the electric guitars repeat their stutter and chatter throughout.

Thematically there's some discord between Meissner's song titles and his choice of photographic imagery. Using words like milk, honey, home, and sand, his titles induce warm and comforting country associations, but the photos show industrial, ruined landscapes suggesting the aftermath of some apocalypse. “Home,” for example, depicts the scattered remains of a building site. The photo's colour-reversal makes it difficult to determine its content with certainty, as it might be a building site photographed prior to the home's construction, but it's disturbing regardless of the interpretation. Most pointedly, rather than showing an actual honeycomb to accompany “Honey (Edit),” Meissner chooses a skyscraper whose night-time lighting and windows grid mimic a honeycomb pattern. Such disjuncts between the music and its visuals create an undercurrent of unease.

Musically, the sound is generally light and peaceful, although the bass plucks and dark cloud formations in “Honey (Edit)” and strafing guitar bursts on “(Sun)fall” that evoke bird screeching emanate their fair share of unsettling portent. It hardly need be mentioned, however, that Kompakt's ambient works by definition reject the idea of development in favour of compositional stasis so that each piece becomes a paradoxically frozen yet temporally extended sound sculpture. Consequently, Milk & Honey, as lush as it is, won't likely win any new converts beyond those already enamoured with the Kompakt ambient concept. Even so, there's no denying the beauty of the windswept desert plains of “Home” and the becalmed oasis that Meissner conjures in “Milk (Edit).”

May 2004