James Plotkin - Kurtlanmak/Damascus Utech by Keith Boyd 10.03.06
Like Bill Laswell, James Plotkin is one of those artists who seems to be either associated with or integral to several outfits I find amazing.
From Khanate and Old to SunnO))) and Atomsmasher, his name seems to be credited on an ever expanding number of excellent releases. Perhaps most impressive of all have been the string of new and reissued discs where he is either the principle or half of a duo making all the noise. The diversity of sound and singularity of vision on these CD's clues you in to the fact that you're dealing with a sound/freak of immense proportions and that the results are well worth a listen.
The most recent (as I haven't checked my sources today, this might no longer be true) of these gems is Kurtlanmak/Damascus. It's a reissue of an out-of-print CDR and has an additional twenty minute track to accompany it. The first draw to this CD is the excellent cover. It's done in a "have to touch" thick card stock and is emblazoned with two odd and sinister technical drawings of skulls. The background is a barely-there golden filigree/wallpaper motif that when not the focus of your attention, becomes a gently swirling river of curvy lines. This contrasting imagery and attention to quality are precursors to the music contained within.
The first track is a backward, stuttering glitch ride. There is plenty of space surrounding these blips and glimmers in which to lose yourself. After several trips through the spin cycle of Plotkins laptop, a gorgeous and vaguely Middle-Eastern guitar figure takes over and proceeds to permute and just plain mutate for an infinity or two. The second track starts off with the same backwards, sucked-in guitar used on the first, but soon a glacial wall of drone slides in and obliterates all rational thought.
This cut of dream-inducing, cloud form-as-sound slowly builds and thickens.
Finally this construct pops and, in doing so, we are washed in electric sparks and skipping crackles.
The whole disk is a testament to the range and expressive power of noise as a musical element. This is a deep and thoroughly rewarding release. The quantity of sonic information here is tailor-made for quiet, late night, headphone listening. While being intensely introspective, there is an oddly expansive and cinematic quality as well. To paraphrase the Cramps, this is, "sound music for sound people."