John Duncan; KlaarBlack Truffle
BT 031 LP
Long Playing Record
Black Truffle present the first ever vinyl reissue of legendary performance and sound artist John Duncan's forgotten gem Klaar, originally released by Extreme in 1991 and partly created in collaboration with Andrew McKenzie (The Hafler Trio). Duncan is perhaps most well-known for his notorious early performances pieces, which explored violence, self-denial, and the establishment of extreme psychological and physical states in both artist and audience. Alongside these transgressive experiments, Duncan began to create audio works primarily using short wave radio.
Where some of Duncan's earlier recordings are composed of magnificently sculpted but abrasive walls of noise, Klaar, recorded while Duncan was living in Amsterdam, occupies a more meditative territory. Opening with "Delta", which layers long tones seemingly sourced from slowed down voices over a distant, watery field recording, the remainder of the first side is occupied with the epic title piece, which arranges shortwave radio abstraction, vocal experiments, and field recordings (street sounds, fireworks, monastic chants) into an episodic cinema for the ear. The second side is dominated by the long, brooding "The Immense Room", where layers of shortwave interference and field recordings are gradually built up into a pulsing, wavering bed of sound infused with a subtly disturbing sense of psychological unrest. This rises to the surface near the end of the piece as sexual moans and ominous rumbles crisscross the stereo image before being abruptly brought to a halt.
A singular work of electroacoustic composition, Klaar is both compositionally sophisticated and infused with a sense of mystery and a vital reality often lacking in more academic experimental music; it sits proudly alongside contemporaneous recordings by Duncan's friends and collaborators Jim O'Rourke and Christoph Heemann and is a must for anyone interested in their work. Cover image and John Duncan portrait by Traianos Pakioufakis. LP design by Stephen O'Malley. Mastered and cut by Rashad Becker at Dubplates & Mastering, Berlin.