Arthur King - UMN (Koyaanisqatsi)

Arthur King - UMN (Koyaanisqatsi)

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Tracklisting:

  1. Geologic Tides
  2. Living In Tech
  3. Existence
  4. Corrupted
  5. Dig Precious Things

 

UMN (Koyaanisqatsi) is the latest record from Arthur King, and the next iteration in the ongoing Unknown Movie Night series. Recorded on a cool December night in Los Angeles, this improvisational artifact includes contributions from musicians David Ralicke, Joel Virgel, Peter Jacobson, Peter Walker, and Wally Ingram.

With the original score composed by Philip Glass, UMN (Koyaanisqatsi) is a brazenly new musical take by Arthur King, charting sonic territory based purely on the visual richness and profound subject matter of the film. This is a document of immediate, collective musical improvisation over labored contemplative thought, an astute reaction to a film of global scale.

A quiet gravitas is bestowed upon the opening notes, a rising call to adventure, and UMN (Koyaanisqatsi) quickly becomes a monomyth for both listener and artist alike. The quintet supplies enough supernatural (musical) aid to cross the threshold into the unknown, and Arthur King establishes a new palette to paint our own hero’s journey with bold strokes. While past UMN efforts veered into ​​wildly syncopated breakbeats, pummeling industrial electronics, and airy tonal textures, what is presented here exudes both restraint and a cinematic flair. With plenty of room for each element to breathe, instruments weave together in a delicate dance sharing steps with this year’s Holotropica from Sofie Birch. Gentle cello plucks dot soft synth pad swells as a gauzy textured landscape unfolds. Percussion accentuates compositions without rhythmic build, with objects used as integrated adornment rather than definitions of time. Otherworldly vocals rise like a protest - emotionally laden without content or context - in exclamations of pure expression. Just when you are getting comfortable, the tide shifts once more, as the album fluidly undulates with little repeated refrain.

It’s undoubtedly the live-score nature of these compositions that allow them to both develop organically and, at any given moment it seems, turn on a dime. The first half of the track “Living in Tech” has a skittering anxiety that calls to mind Oneohtrix Point Never, whereas the second half slows down to introduce unsettling motifs that would find good company within the soundtrack work of Mica Levi.

Meditative and churning, “Existence” moves forward in what feels like the abyss of our hero’s journey, overcast with ambiance. One must go down to come up, and the following track “Corrupted” opens with a simple cello motif, and with it a tinge of a new sun rising on the horizon. Melancholy and contemplative, we acknowledge the transformation and move towards atonement.

“Dig Precious Things” functions as the return to the known, with an already clearly-defined sonic palette reiterating a thesis that perhaps passed notice upon first listen. Opening with the somber reed lines of David Ralicke, and underpinned by a plucky, skeletal cello, the song proceeds like a dubbed-out alternate history of baroque chamber music, or a more cavernous version of Penguin Cafe Orchestra. The vocals of Joel Virgel sneak in like a ghost reaching up from the underworld as ephemeral elements build and interweave. The piece starts to take on a mournful yet sentimental quality, like the band that played onboard the Titanic as it sank. Unexpectedly, a flurry of pointillist synth rain drops patter down, overtake the entire soundscape, and the song ends abruptly, yet cohesively, like the band has slipped as one into the vast dark ocean.

Like a somnambulist with incredible dexterity, the journey comes naturally from the raw talent moving unconsciously amongst this group of musicians. UMN (Koyaanisqatsi) firmly establishes itself in contrast to its series predecessors through a delicate patience surrounding the composition's five distinct pieces, and a cool, mysterious demeanor is revealed that complements the hues of the album’s artwork.

AKP018