Number One

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The three-way collaboration between K.K. Null, Chris Watson, and Z'ev was, rather unsurprisingly, not an improvised piece, though it would be fascinating to hear the trio working together in that fashion. Instead, Z'ev was the overall coordinator, taking various recordings in the wild from Watson to mix with Null's electronic creations, including various drumming and rhythms, as well as his own work. Neither ambient in a classic sense nor noisy chaos at the other extreme, Number One finds a balance between hyperactivity and serenity that fits the sources -- almost as if a pristine landscape were drawn over in power lines and the hums of alien visitors. It's all the more interesting given that the thematics of the album revolve around interpretations of Japanese noh drama, and while there's a sense of how the album functions as a potential soundtrack, with dramatic builds to explosive climaxes, it need not be foremost in the listener's mind. The greatest source of the tension comes from hearing the many natural sounds from Watson's tapes -- there are numerous animal chirps, cries, and calls, which according to his notes come from everything from feasting vultures to massed frogs and toads -- which set against stark, echoed electronic machine gun beats and shimmering sheets of trebly sound, not to mention sometimes howling drones, makes for a kaleidoscopic listen. "Development -- Woman," the third of the five pieces, makes for an appropriate centerpiece, growing out of the first two selections to serve as a less frenetic collage, but "Climax -- Madness," with its almost tactile combination of storm sounds and rhythm collages that crackle with electronic interruptions, trumps even that.

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