Kellar love to experiment with sounds, and to share the results of those experiments. Having made plenty of loud guitar- and drum-based noise on debut “Beloved Dean of Magic”, Kellar return with a shift in sound on “Smokescreen” that is altogether more drone and at times even ambient. It’s highly improvised and almost certainly different from what you normally listen to.

Running at 36 minutes the record has three songs and comes with no bonus game. Opening track “Voices of a Broken Machine” starts with creepy and echoing electronics, heavily distorted guitar and what sounds like autoharp. The warm analogue tone contrasts with the harsh percussion that soon lurks in the background. The feel reminds me of 3epkano’s “The Torture Room”, not in its sound and instrumentation, but in the nightmare it conjures up. There is so much tension, despair, terror and horror weaving its way through the thick, deep red velvet fabric of the song, yet you always hear the hope. Themes return in the closing minute and we leave the track unresolved, something I’m not usually happy with but in this case it feels right for some reason.

“They Gather on the Horizon” is an absolutely cracking runaway track of 11:11 with an opening passage of driving drums and guitar against the wall of electronic sound. This is a track of two movements and the electronics take a back seat in the second half as the pace slows down, the guitar and drums no longer running, instead grinding, chewing, folding, kneading, wringing and mauling.

The final track “The Levitation of Princess Karnak” describes an act of illusion by the Great Kellar in 1900 in which he sends a woman over the heads of the audience so quickly they do not see her. It tells the story well with its quickening heartbeat and waves of supernatural forces. One of the things I enjoy about this record is that it avoids some of the devices it would be so easy to fall to. The waves in the closing minute could easily have been made to dance from one speaker to the other, as could so much of the electronics, but they don’t.

Music like this can attract the objection that it’s just noise with no meaning or direction and therefore is just noise. Perhaps it is; after all I’ve seen a few works in art galleries in my time that I can’t see any artistic merit in. But you know what? I really don’t care. I love this sort of noise and illusion or not, I will continue to find satisfaction indulging in the work of this incarnation of the Great Kellar.

Now, for a change, this review is in two parts. In the following section I review the record played backwards through a megaphone underwater, with the review then put through four different languages in an online translator.

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Which all goes to prove that experimental improv isn’t just a bunch of random sounds put together. It takes skill to create the soundscape you find on “Smokescreen”.

Released March 14 2012 through Bandcamp

Posted by Gilbert Potts

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