The way you discover an artist’s work always has some impact on your understanding. In the case of German electronic composer Roland Kayn, that initial point of entry was possibly the single most challenging work of his entire career – the monolithic 14 hours of A Little Electronic Milky Way of Sound.
Created in 2009, two years before sadly passing at the age of 78, and released in 2017, it’s easily one of the most significant listens of our life.
Since then, we’ve been treated to a still growing mass of previously unreleased and remastered works under his label Reiger record reeks, now looked after by his daughter IIse.
Somehow though, it’s these longer form works that feel like the optimum way to get lost in Kayn’s uniquely heady zones. Looking back over the years since we tuned in, the 10 hours of Scanning, and the 4 of Tektra, have continued to pull us deeper into his uniquely weird longform amazingness. These huge chunks of music, as we slowly move backwards through his career, giving tantalising glimpses of his process, range and the evolution within his unique sonic world.
Infra is one of Kayn’s first solo releases, originally appearing in 1981 and spanning 3 hours over 4 LPs, after being created in 1978/9. Re-issued now, over 40 years later as a much more practical 3 CD boxset, and freshly polished up by Jim O’Rourke. It’s an unmissable chance to examine his work at the very point his techniques began to solidify.
Adorned with abstract art and space aged fonts, the box has the whiff of something nestling deep within an academic library, the words ‘cybernetic music’ appearing like a suggestion as to where its filed or a lower-case warning…
Seeing as Kayn never really wanted to share exactly how these pieces were made, you could also assume this unknown is an intrinsic part of listening. Sounds enter his system of modules and maze of leads, and the technology takes on some form of responsibility for what happens next. We are listening to a mystery, and it’s easy to regard all these vast tracks as previously unseeable alien panoramas. Music that’s initiated by humans but rendered elsewhere.
The accompanying booklet suggests: This music can be termed ‘abstract’. Perhaps concepts such as surfaces, layers, spaces, constellations, transitions, and reflections will help the listener understand it.
Throughout its immersive 3 hour arc, several times, through scouring globular mists, actual smears of orchestra, brass and percussion loom in the distance like ships in a fog. Isotrope folds in on itself some 21 minutes in as electronics peak around bizarrely dramatic string blossoms. Nastie births pools of woozy string and brass before gathering into a gong lined, elongated form of time…
Formante I is a completely different revelation, a stuttering rhythmic wave that slowly blurs and expands into less and less definite versions of itself. Formante II works seeming backwards from huge columns of gusting air slowly focussing into saw toothing night bombers and layers of mangled energy.
Despite the suggestion that Randoms I might be just that, it’s actually the calmest and least dynamic track here, a nebulous drift through a less turbulent stretch of deep space. That space turns even more kosmic in Randoms II, where huge sections could almost become Ash Ra Tempel’s Traummaschine.
The closer Apeiron is encased in fizzing layers around a slowly evolving centre. Things tumble and align in dizzying geometries that ebb and flow in corroded ever enlarging surges, before slowly transposing you back to Earth.
7 tracks, the shortest just over 18 minutes long, the longest just over 36 and whatever is going seems to not make any difference to its outrageous potency. We’ve had Infra for a few weeks now and it’s been pretty much the only thing we’ve played. It took days to even get past the adventurous opener Isotrope. Each new track feels like a significant event way beyond the notion of something as earth based and trivial as a track on a CD.
Slowly becoming familiar with the scale of creativity here is a joy that clearly doesn’t happen very often. It’s also shuffled our already sky-high adoration even further, and will make everything we already love by Kayn, positivity altered. We now have an even greater understanding of where all this wild beauty grew from.
It’s early days, and possibly sounds over dramatic, but the thought has drifted through our mind more than once – Infra might just be the best thing we’ve ever heard.
Infra is available as a 3CD boxset HERE