Reviewed by Ali Burge (Thermostat)
Of all the albums I’ve reviewed so far this year, Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble is the one I thought I knew exactly what it would sound like before it even arrived. To give a little background, Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble (KDE from now on to save me time and you frustration) is a project of Jason Kohnen, a.k.a. Bong-Ra amongst other things, and Gideo Kiers, who also pops up the occasional Bong-Ra track and has seemingly been working with Kohnen since 2000. Bong-Ra’s specialty is nasty breakcore – 250bpm broken beats and more bass than any reasonable artist would put on a record - and I was expecting just that, especially given the Darkbreaks series of 12”s he did on Djax back in 1998.
Opening track The Nothing Changes is downbeat ambient jazz given a menacing overtone while follow up Pearls for Swine begins as a lesson in glitchy electronica, before launching into an aural assault verging on noise terrorism before returning to the sedate electronica. With this as a beginning my expectations were confounded: Kohnen almost seems to want to shake off his reputation as a man who’s listened to too much hardcore. What works on these tracks, and indeed what makes up the majority the album, is the slow, downbeat jazz which at times reaches moments of minimal beauty. In the context of this Kohnen’s throwbacks to his alter ego seem out of place, ripping through the atmosphere of that around it.
Lobby sees the ambient jazz that came before beefed up with some lo-fi beats, building towards a climax that seems never to come, as industrial noise fades into the spectrum it suddenly overtakes everything, bending to the will of the previous atmospherics. Whereas before the introduction of electronic noise punctured the tranquillity of the track, in Lobby this noise works to further the atmosphere of the dark underbelly of jazz.
It is the atmospherics that drive this album and it is perhaps not surprising that KDE began life scoring the classics of silent cinema. For all the credit I give to Kohnen, KDE are a genuine ensemble: they have real people playing real instruments, not just a man and his sample archive. This cinematic starting point informs the album, and you can’t help but wonder what film they’ve dreamt that this is scoring. To simply dismiss this is another Ninja Tune wannabe record that simply aims to rescore Wong Kar-Wai films with more interesting beats is to do it a great disservice. Weaving between dark ambient jazz, electronica and back again, KDE is an album that needs to be listened to as a whole – this is a 69 minute journey through a musical narrative. Not perhaps what you would expect from label such as Planet Mu, more commonly associated with the industrial drum n bass of owner μ-ziq but very welcome none the less.
- Various - The Cosmic Forces Of Mu
- Venetian Snares - Defluxion
- Venetian Snares & Speedranch - Making Orange Things
- Joseph Nothing - Dummy Variations
- Hrvatski - Swarm & Dither
- Mu Allstars - Criminal
- Hellfish & Producer - Constant Mutation (Mixed)
- Leafcutter John - Microcontact
- Nicole Elmer - Beef Bouilion
- Tim Tetlow - Beauty Walks A Razor's Edge
- Phthalocyanine - 25 Tracks Fer 1 Track
- Leafcutter John - Concourse E.E.P.
- Luke Vibert - '95-'99
- Jega - Geometry
- Capitol K - Roadeater E.P.
- Kid Spatula - Full Sunken Breaks
- Jega & Kid Spatula - Unity Gain / Hard Love
- Capitol K - Sounds Of The Empire
- Slag Boom Van Loon - So Soon
- Tusken Raiders - The Motorbike Track
- Slag Boom Van Loon - Slag Boom Van Loon
- Jega - Spectrum
- Horse Opera - 3 Cornered Room
- Capitol K - Island Row