Jason Kahn

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Miramar Review

by François Couture

Recorded two years after Plurabelle, Jason Kahn's fourth solo album (and the first released on a label other than his own Cut imprint) fixes the shortcomings of that opus by dropping rhythm altogether -- which is not a small decision for a percussionist. Credited for analog synthesizer, percussion, and "room" (yes, feedback is involved), Kahn makes the plunge into abstract soundscaping, similar in approach to Günter Müller, although the latter often focuses on grainy textures, while Kahn is more into droning tones. Miramar is the kind of album that will either mesmerize you or annoy you to the point of hitting the "stop" button before the end of the first track -- which would be a shame. His drones are not pure sine waves; they have more depth and feeling, and surprisingly, they work better in headphones than on loudspeakers, drawing your head into a parallel time-space continuum (i.e., what you hear seems to be happening in a different realm than what you see). Tones flap softly, conjuring up ghost harmonics, generating feedback that adds body to the music, making the drone larger than life, but in a subtle way. There is no detectable percussion playing -- no hits, no brush strokes, no audible bowed metal -- except for a tiny bell in track two, so one wonders if the "percussion" credit translates to vibrating effects on a floor tom (which would certainly be compatible with what is being heard). Plurabelle was hinting at that direction, but by getting rid of rhythm and sampling, Kahn has achieved an unsuspected level of purity. And while other artists reaching for the same purity often end up sounding cold and detached, Miramar has a peculiar warmth to it, a warmth that may be due in part to the genius of engineer Bob Drake.