Wednesday, May 10, 2017

DAVID KANAGA “Operaism” C45 (Orange Milk)



David Kanaga makes me really angry. Not with him – oh god no. He’s fine. He makes me angry with myself, because what have I done with my life thus far? I’m a dang fine music reviewer, but hey, these things aren’t exactly my Brothers Karamazov, my For Whom the Bell Tolls. Stretch these bastards like taffy to 80,000 words and you might have my Twilight. At worst you’ll have my 50 Shades of Gray, or whatever James Patterson is shitting out of his typewriter this very second.

That’s why I’m mad. Because David Kanaga is lapping the field, lapping me, in his remarkable output. I mean, if it wasn’t for Operaism itself, I’d be amazed by the sheer volume of material available on his Bandcamp page (which you should check out below). Oh, and he also designs video games, among other things. I’ll just leave these tidbits here.

Then there’s Operaism itself, two long sides that never stop changing, never stop evolving, never stop reinventing themselves. The cycle seems to be making a point for opera itself rather than stringing along a clear, exact plot for the listener to latch onto. That’s OK – point is made, taken, and agreed with. The changes make immaculate sense within themselves, and all seems to serve the much larger whole.

Thematic elements recur throughout – a Donald Duck–like voice, actual opera samples, Super Mario coin chings. Styles appear and disappear: techno, Eastern, tropicalia, trip hop, music-box lullabyes, the ubiquitous “vapor”-whatever. Even the final string quartet denouement is undercut by barking dogs and braying sheep, making it hard to not think that Kanaga is winking at us, toying with us, suggesting that this is child’s play to him. And I won’t spoil the real ending of the work, “Operaism 2,” side B. Just know that there are so many sources, so much composition, so many pieces involved in crafting this whole. Pretty much each moment is a “holy crap!” moment.

Where does that leave us? I find myself on the other end of Operaism, disheveled, thirsty, with a “what just happened?” look on my face. These results accompany a sense of violent satisfaction, in that the ride was gnarly, weird, and unsettling but as exhilarating and fun as any forty-five minutes spent in a fast-forward Tilt-a-Whirl could be. The components of Kanaga’s music bombard you at a nonstop clip, resetting any notions you may have initially had about the concept of “opera,” either as a style or as a narrative device. And who could stay frustrated when you’re having such a good time?

David Kanaga Bandcamp page
Orange Milk

--Ryan Masteller

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