Label: Paradigm Recordings
Bandcamp stream: Link
Perhaps the biggest challenge with dark, experimental, improvised music is if it can put the listener in the frame of mind that the musicians involved intended. It is all well and good losing yourself in the music and the moment, letting your understanding with your band-mates propel you forwards, but too often the result is something that leaves the listener cold. Brussels based experimental/improvisation duo AKSU could easily fall in to that trap given the nature of their music, that combines improvisational techniques with noise rock, free jazz, and dark ambient sounds. Thankfully though, their latest release The Way to Destroy and Create Things/Screenplay and Outline for an Unexpected Space avoids such problems, simply by virtue of the quality of their music and the atmosphere it creates.
Right from the moment “Multiples” opens with some intricate, expansive drum work, the tone of the album is set: dark, haunting music made with a purpose that is lacking in so much other music that aims to be artistic. There is a strong grasp of dynamics, and this ebb and flow adds to the album; there are parts where the space created functions just as strongly as the music itself, as on “Mantra 1.3”. Some of the sparse guitar work is especially haunting, such as on “One Hundred Thousand Tongues”. Nor are there long passages of repetition and self-indulgence as might be expected from improvised music. There is the sense that the most basic of structures and boundaries were set down prior to recording so that, whilst the band have a lot of room in which to explore and experiment, they never drift too far off-course. Additionally, the use of a variety of instruments and effects helps keep things interesting for the listener, and the combination of trumpet on top of guitars and drums that would not be out of place on a metal record during “A Call To Action” is especially (and unexpectedly) successful.
What is most notable throughout, however, is the atmosphere the band creates. Undeniably dark, it cannot help but draw you in and hold you. Most artistic music requires a certain frame of mind to be enjoyable for the listener, perhaps more so than any other genre, but AKSU have created something that puts you in the right frame of mind, rather than relies on you already being there. It is a notable achievement, and hints that The Way To Destroy… might appeal to people who do not normally listen to music of this style. One final point of praise is that the album was recorded in a single night, which perhaps goes some way to explaining the consistent mood throughout, even as the band explore different sonic avenues.
There are some sections where it might be argued that attention is not consistently held, but that is perhaps inevitable with music of this nature, and they represent only a small section of the album, which is almost an hour long. The Way To Destroy… comes across as a very successful album, both as a piece of art and as a piece of music, and will surely appeal to those with dark, more experimental tastes.