Gregg Kowalsky: Through the Cardial Window

Very much a quintessential kranky release, Oakland, California resident Gregg Kowalsky's (aka Osso Bucco) Through the Cardial Window teems with droning sound sculptures of shimmering vibrancy. Generating sonic materials from computer, electronics, field recordings, and melodica, the Mills College graduate augments the glacial swell of steely, sluicing tones with Ben Bracken's prepared guitar and Marielle Jakobsons' violin and bowed glass in “Ashes from Evermore,” establishing a template from which the subsequent settings subtly deviate. Though a subdued industrial thrum reverberates amidst sheets of shimmering psychedelia during “Into the Marshes They Drove Me” (the piece contains source material from Isis), it's the near-subliminal insectile chatter piercing the haze that suggests the humid atmospheres of South Florida where Kowalsky grew up. Elsewhere, telephone wire frequencies appear to oscillate through “Long Distance Decade” while “Tendrils (Guitar Pickup)” brings Kowalsky's nuanced collection to a placid close.

Incidentally, the choice of title is anything but arbitrary and in fact has the utmost personal significance for the artist. In 1999, Kowalsky, living in New York City at the time, was having trouble breathing due to fluid buildup around his heart and so was forced to have Pericardial Window surgery ('cardiac' means 'related to the heart' and is from the Greek kardia or kardiakos) where a small incision is made to drain the fluid. Kowalsky's initial immersion into music production began during the recovery period; consequently, he regards the current release as one six years in the making, with its music emanating directly from his heart's cardial window.

April 2006