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| The Hafler Trio |
Kill The King
Korm Plastics CD
by Jim Haynes
originally published in The Wire, 242: March, 2004
It's a dangerous proposition to take sound, image, word or anything from The Hafler Trio at face value, since their history is dotted with deliberate misinformation, sleights of hand and gnostic trickery. A particularly overt example is on their debut Bang! An Open Letter, on which they perpetuated a myth about two acoustic engineers Robert Spridgeon and Dr Edward Moolenbeek, who had supposedly passed on a wealth of psychoacoustic research for The Hafler Trio to continue. This turns out to be fiction, but the tall tale was a good one, especially with the album's masterful cut 'n' paste collage as an accompaniment. By the late 80's, the original partnership between Andrew McKenzie and Chris Watson came to an end, with McKenzie continuing to hold the reigns of the Trio. McKenzie's strategies and philosophies have become more and more complex over the years. On occasion, he appears to reveal those strategies in a supposed act of benevolence towards us poor mortals who foolishly seek to find a meaning, an experience, something within his work.
13 years after its initial release, which was marred with digital bit rot, Kill The King remains a brilliant if baffling production. It opens with a two minute reading from an unknown woman with a Germanic accent. She speaks in a deliberate monotone about the quality of her voice. Yet when she utters the statement "It will not be raised or lowered, no matter what happens", inflections carry her voice up and down and undermine the syntax of that statement. Coupled with McKenzie's gritty treatment of the voice, this brief introduction acts as a template for the remainder of the album in which obvious semiological guides are no longer valid, yet an acute intellect is still at work. In this context Kill The King reads as a unique and incredibly personal form of communication through the physicality of sound, which holds its own peculiar set of of nuances and neologisms. During the ensuing 70 minutes, McKenzie in occasional collaboration with John Duncan and Zbigniew Karkowski, recontextualises a huge wealth of synthetic and found sounds to form the basis of this aural language. Here, data crunched drones are suspended within an electrified ether, the noxious rasp of a modem nestles against corroded pulsations, and oxygenated whispers reverberate through and eerie ambience. These passages do not impart any specifics - instead, they are selections from a serial taxonomy of moods and emotions, in particular awe, horror, tension and fear. Kill The King succeeds in pulling together all of these grandiose ideas and ridiculous concepts by the sheer force of their conviction that sound has a profound ability to affect the human body and spirit.