Konstrukt: ions

Autechre + Prefuse 73 = Konstrukt, or at least that's the basic equation one formulates upon listening to Ions as the San Francisco-based collective merges the clanking beats of Messrs. Booth and Brown with Scott Herren's hip-hop stylings into a credible hybrid. Since 2001, Konstrukt, founded by Dan Hai (Maredsous) and Abe Dichi (Damiak), has become a key event organizer in the bay area, having presented artists like Matthew Dear, Funkstörung, and Kit Clayton. Ions is a different animal altogether, however, as it showcases the individual and combined products of six Konstrukt artists. The group members are a diverse lot: Damiak was born in Mexico City and Hai (if the background literature can be trusted) in the back of a rickshaw on the Vietnamese/Cambodian border; Aggiflex (Agnes Szelag) has taught digital film-making, audio, and other media at Expression College for Digital Arts while also composing for a dance troupe and self-releasing her own album. Other artists include Commute (Rich Bologna), Proqxis (Zac Chia), and Mysethe (Ivan Lugo).

Notwithstanding the narcotized Comfort Food (Aggiflex-Damiak) closer, the one-hour comp is split equitably with each artist allotted two tracks. Proqxis's “III” opens the set underwhelmingly, as its gentle array of warm tones, whirrs, and clicks amounts to decent but unoriginal Autechre-styled IDM; his “eonid” is better, although its obsessive focus on fractured funk beats and pinballing clatter de-limits the track's melodic potential. While the pulverized beats and atmospheric tones in Damiak's “cocol re fin” are convincingly executed but derivative, his “fuk5” makes a stronger impression. Here whirring, grinding noises settle into an alien hip-hop/funk pattern joined by percussive clatter and soulful glistenings. A similar pattern recurs with the other contributors, as one of an artist's two pieces typically impresses more. Maredsous's “41_steps” effectively pairs melancholy piano themes and churchy keyboards with metallic beats, the bass motif in Mysethe's “3” nicely stabilizes its noisy amalgam of hammered squeals, and Comute's hip-hop beats, flute accents, and piano themes in “inert” recall similar instrumental touches in One Word Extinguisher. Aggiflex's “canado,” an Ions standout, creates memorable contrast by pairing showers of tonal glissandi with bulldozer bass lines. Geographically, it may be a long way from Suffolk, England to San Francisco, California but musically there's little separating the two here. While Ions won't garner too many points for originality, its particular version of metal machine music will no doubt appeal to fans of Chiastic Slide and Draft 7.30.

September 2004