There was a point during the heyday of the so-called power noise movement where aficionados (okay fine, the people who hung out on rec.music.industrial) made a point of distinguishing between the newly minted genre and power electronics. Whether that was because the latter was older and had more extreme trappings, or because music nerds like to develop schools out of subtle distinctions, there’s a certain irony to the most fabled power noise label putting out something like Kommando’s Kranial Klash; it’s 2014 and Ant Zen is putting out a straight power electronics album.
I’m nowhere near the expert on PE I’d need to be to properly situate Kranial Klash in terms of the style’s history and legacy. For me the interest in the project (a solo effort by Thorofon’s Dan Courtman) mostly stems from the strangely timeless nature this particular style seems to have. Maybe “out of time” is a better descriptor. While the promo material for the LP touts the use of new technology, I don’t feel like the bursts of static, low rumbling bass and monotone vocals of “Metal Teeth” belong to any one era, modern or otherwise. It’s practically impossible to tell how a song like “Akute Bokhoror” got made; the deliberately lo-fi nature of the recording erases any traces of construction. Did it come out of a DAW or was it fed from a drum machine through a fuzz petal? Who knows, with the exception of the slappy sample workout “Liquid Sky” these songs have had the serials filed off via woozy application of distortion and heavy vocal processing.
Given that, it’s sort of hard to encapsulate any individual moment on Kranial Klash. Each movement grinds out of the preceding one so inevitably that it’s often hard to tell the tracks apart when recollecting them. More than once I found myself bouncing through the tracks looking for a specific moment I remembered from a previous listen (a good example would be the climactic distorted howl at the end of “Difron 32 Golden Dawn”, which I could have sworn was on at least three other songs). That’s not to say that the album is samey throughout, just that the unified style of production effectively wraps the whole thing up and makes it indivisible; the ascending crackles that circle around “Saint’s Heaven” wouldn’t necessarily fit into the brick wall of coloured noise and kick drum thud that is “Crocodile”, but neither number sounds out of place next to the other.
I’m quite certain that there’s an audience for a record like Kranial Klash outside of the traditional power electronics scene, and that on a particular day I might be counted as part of it. Without wanting to undersell the album – for the record, I feel it’s pretty enjoyable – its actual listenability for a recording in the style is notable. Kommando is somehow finding some footholds that belie the aggressive and confrontational aspects of his chosen genre. With or without context, there’s some very deep cracks between these slabs of noise to explore, and some kind of meaning and enjoyment to extract from them.
Sounds great, now I have to try to not stream the whole thing before my vinyl arrives. This isn’t the first time Ant-Zen has released Power Electronics, they do have the two recent Control albums, and even did a Con-Dom release in the ’90s.