Opiate: Sometimes
Morr Music

Thomas Knak's nom de plume, connoting states of narcotized relaxation and temporal arrestation, is belied by the flurry of activity with which he has been involved in recent times. He joined Anders Remmer (aka Dub Tractor) and Jesper Skaaning (aka Acustic) in producing System, a tasteful dub outing on ~scape, and in constituting Future 3, which contributed two songs to the Morr Music compilation Blue Skied An' Clear. Knak is also known as the head of the Hobby Industries label and for his collaborations with Björk on Vespertine (to which he contributed two of its best tracks, “Cocoon” and “Undo”) and Carsten Nicolai (aka Noto) on their Opto_Files release. Perhaps Knak intends Opiate to allude to the musical approach he adopts on Sometimes which, admittedly, is blissfully calming, not to mention easily ingested in its meager dosage of twenty-five minutes. Much like other artists of this genre (e.g., Dub Tractor, Dictaphone, Herrmann & Kleine, Manual, Morgan Caney & Kamal Joory), Knak commingles acoustic sounds of guitars, pianos, and flutes with digital treatments of sound processing and programming. It makes for an interesting exercise to debate Knak's and Remmer's respective contributions to System, based on their Sometimes and More Or Less Mono releases. While it might be a slight overgeneralization, the aural evidence suggests that Remmer accounts more for the dub qualities and Knak for the glitchier dimension of their collaborative effort.

Sometimes is comprised of six brief pieces, all of which entertain a constant tension between their organic and digital dimensions. Exclamatorily bursting forth with showers of glitchy hiccups, the opener “Perdot” settles into a becalmed overture of surface crackles and simulated cello surges while particles of garbled, squiggling voices float amidst the muffled static. “Snow Story” begins with a brief cacophonous crash before ebbing into a gentle and dreamy rustic song of acoustic guitars, strings, and flutes bathed in hiss and crackles. The glitch ante is upped considerably at the beginning of “Amstel” before being joined by a pretty piano melody and an uptempo flurry of thrumming percussion. Again, the tension between acoustic and digital sounds is intensified by the rising, churning whorls of static that constantly threaten to overwhelm the song's piano melody. Apparently, the titular gentleman of “For Brian Alfred” asked Opiate (as well as fellow artists like Nobukazu Takemura and Pan American) to create music inspired by his paintings which were ultimately shown in a New York gallery in October, 2002. Shards of scratching and scraping noises introduce the song, and are then joined by a more conventional rhythm pattern of massive bass drums and rapid-fire hi-hats, and a skeletal melody of ringing tones. Just when you've concluded that the track remains too firmly locked into its groove, Knak drops out the dense drum elements to leave unadorned the glitch treatments and minimal melody. “‘Stp!” brings the vinyl surface noise front and center out of which a simple set of keyboard chords emerges, accompanied by a jazz-tinged drum, cymbal, and bass pattern. The closing “opiTTT” begins with looping industrial sounds and huge swaths of reverb amidst a simple, staccato melody line, with bird-like accents peppering the track's languid rhythm track.

Sometimes is certainly a satisfying listen and serves as a natural complement to More Or Less Mono, with the latter slightly longer and more compositionally expansive; Knak's mini-recording sounds comparatively more one-dimensional (although one might counter-argue that its consistency imputes a unified impression). Furthermore, the six pieces have a fragmentary feel to them, as if their ideas could have been developed further into more fully-rounded compositions as opposed to the mere wisps that they are. Inarguably, it continues a rather displeasing Morr Music trend towards releases that are, frankly, too short. Carping over 78-minute recordings is not tantamount to desiring in their place ones that check in at a quarter of an hour; at twenty-five minutes, Sometimes impresses as a mere appetizer.

June 2003