Friday, June 5, 2020
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Artist: Gen Ken Montgomery
Title: Drilling Holes in the Wall
Format: CD
Label: Monochrome Vision
Rated: *****
What immediately strikes me as interesting for the concept of this album is the personal nature behind it. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, it seems that references to life prior to it are becoming fewer and farther between. The title track of this disc, Drilling Holes in the Wall manages to capture a snapshot of the musical life and times that preceded the unification of East and West Germany.

Released on Russia's label Monochrome Vision label, this album is a collection of works composed between 1986 and 1991. All of the pieces seem to derive from various personal circumstances or environments in which the composer was subjected to. In the liner notes, the artist discusses how he was forbade to cross into East Germany with the instrument used on this album, a Casio MS-10. After being heavily modified into a bastardized synthesizer, the resulting sounds are of a rickety, crunchy, and crackly synth, but because of the dangling wires and modifications, make it look more like an explosive device than a musical instrument (photo included). After being denied entry to the neighboring country because of this, Gen Ken had to find alternative ways to make music on the other side of the tracks. The final work, 'Don't Bring Those Things,' is a prime example of the invention by necessity, created using borrowed instruments of friends.

Describing the sound of this disc is like trying to sum up a book in a single sentence. The sounds are all over the map, with some being textural and gritty, others being metallic and clangy. There are field recordings and the use of voice in a variety of ways. Icebreaker, track 4, was derived seemingly from recordings of an ice machine and to great results. There is also a heavy analogy synth feel considering the nature of the circuit bent electronics. But despite the 2 octave keyboard used to generate these sounds, the range of timbre could not be wider.

That being said, Gen Ken manages to provide a compelling slab of a constantly shifting electronic sound across this hour long journey. Perhaps the best way to describe the sound of this disc is to actually imagine the sound of the Berlin Wall being demolished, with all its hammering, shoveling, crumbling, toppling, and of course...drilling.

This disc serves as an excellent compendium of the work of Gen Ken Montgomery across a number of years, personal eras, and performance spaces. Recommended to fans of raw sound, analog synth music, and noise.