Kangding Ray: OR (Raster-Noton)
OR is another album I’ve had in my library for months, and I’ve had a hard time putting words down to describe it or why I like it. There’s something so damn physical about it that its presence and power is undeniable. David Letellier is the man behind the project, and most of the pieces on OR sound like parts of a whole. The entire album is a living, breathing organism, constantly moving and shifting forms. In some ways it’s a rather pure installation for Raster-Noton, a label that’s been exploring the more minimal and physical side of rhythm & noise for over a decade now. The entire release is far less warm and inviting than his previous work on Stabil, and it sounds closest to the dark rhythmic excursions Senking embarked on for the label back in 2000. That said, he’s upped the ante here, lest I seem to be implying a retread here. The production is fierce, and the sonic range is deep and lush despite being chilly and physical. Vocals appear here and there which livens things up, though the real star of the show is always the rhythm section. Only a single track, “Mirrors,” is beatless, working as a respite in the center of the playlist. Otherwise we’re treated to a wide range of syncopated electronic percussion and varying degrees of textural drones and bass to anchor and augment, with the pièce de résistance perhaps being the title cut with its deep low end and shoegazey pads. It’s almost industrial in mood and atmosphere, but mannered and clean enough to rise above cliche. Highly recommended listening, sleek and elegant even when it twists and turns into something more sinister.