Lee Gamble: Koch (Pan)
Lee Gamble’s music continues to evolve on its own unusual arc, with Koch working as a double-album (approaching 80 minutes) that has as many twists and turns in its tracklist as its inidividual tracks have in their often unpredictable arrangements. As on past releases for Pan, Gamble touches on dance music conventions and history but often mutates or inverts them into something other. While listening to the sprawl of Koch one might pick up on references that feel familiar, like the chill-out vibe that kicks off “You Concrete” or the hardcore techno buoyancy of “Motor System,” but he keeps listeners on their toes with how varied the tracks are from one another while still sounding deliberate. In sharp contrast to the almost industrial grind of “Motor System,” “Nueme” feels like it was recorded underwater at a party, a nice throb with an unusual shortness of breath. In many instances when listening carefully there are rhythm tracks that are just slightly out of phase, so a secondary snare might start to slide into the spaces between, and it’s effective at adding an edge to the already somewhat disorienting nature of Gamble’s music.
I suppose some of my favorites here are the ones that emphasize the often fidgety energy, almost anxious, such as the bright and delayed decay of “Oneiric Contur.” The dense, hissy fog that often characterized his previous Diversions 1994-1996 release works well in many of these tracks, complementing a luscious low-end that is likely to rattle listeners to the core, as heard on “Flatland.” Its murky sprawl is vastly enhanced by an almost suffocating rumble of bass. Often times this density makes his tracks feel obscured, often wet with reverb amidst the haze, but on a track like “HMix” or “Gillsman” it suddenly feels claustrophobic and intense, like a lo-fi basement rave piped right into your ears with an almost alarming dryness. Compare that to the dry fog of “Frame Drag,” which feels like getting lost in a foggy maze, unable to shake the feeling that you might be going in circles.
The second half may even be stronger than the first, starting with the spastic sputter of “Voxel City Spirals,” followed by one of the album’s best tracks, “Yehudi Lights Over Tottenham,” recalling the same disembodied resonance of Christoph Charles and Markus Popp’s collaborations on Oval’s dok album, but with a dense, heaving core grounding its distant rings. It’s these more vague moments that make more obvious tracks like “6EQUJ5-7” spring to life so sharply by contrast, with an immediacy that feels welcome. It’s hard to quite absorb Koch as a single journey, and perhaps it works better as a sequence of moments, wherein practically no detail remains untouched. It’s yet another example of how singular Gamble is as a producer and creator. May he continue to find his voice with such creative success and rewarding listening.