KYMATIC ENSEMBLE “Split Series Vol. 4” C35 (Orange Milk)

Orange Milk’s “Split Series” usually pairs two artists per tape, one on each side, giving each performer the space to crank out the weirdest, most spasmic nonsense they can and hope to god they out-nonsense the sorry sap who has to follow THAT up on the B-side. Actually, it’s not quite so battle-royale-esque as all that – it’s mostly likeminded visionaries joining forces for dual exposure, despite the fact that they’re still mostly weirdos. I mean, c’mon – you’re not listening to Orange Milk tapes because you expect some sort of convention to be followed, am I right?

“Split Series Vol. 4” is a bit different than the usual format, in that Russia’s Kymatic Ensemble does the whole thing, both sides, A and B. If you’re wondering, as you should, how the heck that counts as a split, I’m here to explain to you that they’re performing PIECES by two different artists, thereby representing two distinct personalities. Here they extend their interpretive chops across a fairly wide divide, going full schizo with pieces by Sean McCann and Orange Milk co-honcho Seth Graham. In my best infomercial voice, “The results maaaay surprise you.”

First maybe it’s illustrative to point out that the Kymatic Ensemble, an “experimental … collective of academic improvisational musicians who use Baroque, modern chamber and oriental instruments, as well as electronic-generated sounds,” has performed Terry Riley’s “A Rainbow in Curved Air,” so maybe I’ll just leave that there to wet your whistle. Let’s just say they sort of split the difference when tackling McCann and Graham. Certainly the pieces are both long in form and expressive, and they run the gamut from delicate to kinetic. But let’s keep these sides separate, OK? We’re still working with a split here.

First, McCann’s “Vilon” aches with melancholy, the strings and piano dripping with pathos as they interact with each other. By the time the piece had run its course, I felt like weeping uncontrollably was the only recourse, the only way I could get “Vilon” out of my system and function again. “Vilon” is twenty-one minutes of weaponized sadness, a heartwrenching document perfectly tailored for Kymetic’s vision and setup.

Then my favorite thing: an interpretation of electronic music by humans playing acoustic instruments. Graham’s “Gasp” is a triumph, landing in my top 10 records of 2018, and Kymetic’s arrangement of certain sections of it somehow manages to do it justice, even though the original is a scrambled-MIDI fantasia incorporating paranoia, anger, and mirth in relatively equal measure. But Kymetic was somehow able to pull it off, unlike the drummer in my college band who I kept yelling “Play like Squarepusher!” at. The level of detail they manage to replicate is nothing short of inhuman, to the point where I suggested, back when I was writing about “Gasp,” that maybe Kymetic is actually an interconnected human hard drive wired to play back things like “Gasp” and “Vilon” on command, like when we press play on whatever studio keeps them in deep freeze.

Don’t believe me how cool Kymetic is? Check out these live videos:

Now you know what I’m talking about.