Zbigniew Karkowski


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Developed during a residency at the Atelier de Création Radiophonique at Maison Radio France (Paris) in 2002 and completed in Tokyo a few months later, ElectroStatics ranks among Zbigniew Karkowski's best works (the CD presents this sole piece, 42 minutes long) and his easiest listens. Don't be fooled; it remains challenging sound art, but one finds a nice balance between abrasive textures and microscopic sounds/silences that makes it easier on the ear than most of his released material. ElectroStatics is all about electric signal. Sound sources include a shortwave radio, a scanner, the direct output of an antenna, and a transformer, plus ground signal. The piece opens on a Biblical rant typical of those populating the shortwaves, immediately setting the mood for an experience that aims at electrical transcendence yet keeps a satirical point of view. The first two thirds are rather noisy as Karkowski sculpts radio signals into finely detailed shapes that evoke how half the fun about scanning stations on a dial radio is listening to the sounds in between stations. Morse code transmissions find their way into the mix (or is it that Karkowski shaped the material into dots and dashes?) before the music shifts its focus on electrical hum. A low growl grips you by the stomach for a few minutes, ever-changing its cycles before being harmonized by other buzzes and joined by a few slabs of white noise for the finale. The topic of shortwave radio is not new; in fact, ever since the release of The Conet Project, it has threatened to become a small-scale trend, but Karkowski's piece makes compelling use of this type of sound sources.

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