Kenneth Kirschner: Imperfect Forms

After a decent gestation period, this very large project dedicated to my friend Kenneth Kirschner’s music has been published by Tokafi. My contribution is one of 20 semi-original works created for this project, all based off of Ken’s available music.

My piece, titled “late september,” and found its titles, materials and inspiration thusly:

Among the many interests, ideas and pastimes that Ken and I share, a common birthday was the most useful as a selection criterion for which pieces of Ken’s music would be used for this project. (See the title of my work for the boundary set by the date in question; thankfully Ken has a very concrete method of titling his work, which made this process a quick one.) Selected works were processed and/or recomposed, to which I added original synthesizer, electric bass, and field recordings.

Imperfect Forms – The Music of Kenneth Kirschner Remixed
is available on bandcamp:

and dive into this immense project here:

We are excited and proud to present Imperfect Forms, an expansive multimedia project about the work of Kenneth Kirschner, a composer and sound artist from Brooklyn, New York. His oeuvre, which he describes as ‘being about recording’, uses classically-tinged acoustic sources, electronically processed sounds and silence. For the past fifteen years, Kirschner’s music has been released free of charge on his website, which doubles up as an expansive, continually updated archive of his oeuvre. His music has also been published in physical form on labels like 12k, Sub Rosa, Room40 and Champion Version, among others.

Over the past two years, twenty sound artists, six video artists and four journalists/writers have carved out their personal vision of Kirschner’s pieces, resulting in 4.5 hours of new and exclusive music; an ebook with interviews and analyses; a generative software piece; specially curated videos as well as a three-part ‘Best Of“ of selected pieces from the past 15 years.

some music that made 2013

I compile this list throughout the year.  Releases I return to for multiple listens throughout the year stay on the list.

Jürg Frey “unhörbare zeit” perf. Conrad Harris, Pauline Kim, Chris Nappi, others @ Willow Place, Brooklyn

antoine beuger 24 preludes for guitar (edition wandelweiser)

beuger/frey dedalaus (potlatch)

girls names the new life (Slumberland)

eva maria houben lost in dreams – piano works (Edition Wandelweiser) & works for piano perf R Andrew Lee (irritable Hedgehog)

sean nicholas savage other life (Arbutus)

keith rowe/graham lambkin making a (Erstwhile)

Primitive Motion worlds floating by (Bedroom Suck)

rmillis relief (Helen Scarsdale Agency)

Stephen Cornford, Samuel Rodgers boring embroidery (Cathnor)

Danny Paul Grody Between Two Worlds (Three Lobed Recordings)

Raum The Event of Your Leaving (Glass, House)

Eliane Radigue Naldjorlak I II III (Shiin)

Stefano Scodanibbio Reinventions (ECM)

special nepotism category:

anne guthrie/richard kamerman sinter (Erstwhile)

what, I’m not supposed to list this hallucinatory album by my wife and our best friend and frequent collaborator.  come on.

CFYR – another year of extreme and wild output from richard’s Copy For Your Records label.  There’s good chance this kind of thing “isn’t yr kind of thing” but if you think it is you ought to be paying attention.

SOD – most of what Alex Cobb’s Students of Decay has pressed this year would be on the above list, John Davis’ Ask The Dust in particular is the kind of album that I listen to for years.  In a format such as this, I’d be remiss to note that Alex & I are quite good friends, he’s commissioned video works from me, and is releasing Anne’s next solo LP.  That said, this year’s releases by Aquarelle, Ekin Fil, and Secret Pyramid are all really exceptional albums in the realm of “music I listen to.”

first reviews for False Heat

Three reviews for the False Heat LP have surfaced:


first, from Greenhouse:

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best ideas: an acoustic guitar and vocalist, a verse-chorus-verse pop song — this isn’t to say that incredibly complex concept albums, highly technical death metal, prog rock, mad-scientist modular synths or heady experimental albums are not good ideas. Often they are, and I usually enjoy listening to them. And this isn’t to say that there isn’t some painfully bad and contrived folk and pop music out there, because there is.

“Simple” is often synonymous with “boring” or “bad” when it comes to music, and while I completely agree that this can be true in a lot of cases, there are bands, albums and artists that are simple and are far from boring or bad. But simple idea, song or album certainly does not occur at the expense of practice and mastery, and this is an important distinction to make, and it is certainly a distinction evinced by Billy Gomberg’s “False Heat.”

The two tracks on “False Heat” are side-long improvisations utilizing synthesizers, “a temporarily empty room with a guitar amplifer, and open window and no live computer treatment.” The idea is so simple and the results are impossible beautiful. Side one begins with some barely audible, but very heavy, bass frequencies, room noise and analog hiss. Gomberg’s synths gradually climb into higher registers, slowly shifting like the sun moving across the empty room they occupied.

Side two has a bit more motion, with shuddering tones dropping amidst Gomberg’s glass-like bed of sustained, though subtly changing, notes. While very minimal and slow-moving, Gomberg is adept at introducing new notes and textures, making these tracks quite engaging and dynamic; he’s equally skilled at taking them away. To passersby, “False Heat” may indeed sound boring and one-dimensional, but it takes real skill and patience to create sound that is this minimal and restrained on one hand and dynamic and interesting on the other.

I am unfamiliar with Gomberg’s previous work, but the patience and restraint on display here indicate his mastery of his craft. “False Heat” may be a simple idea, but the results for the listener are incredibly complex, and in lesser hands, such an idea would indeed be boring and bad. An incredibly rewarding and beautiful record. Highly recommended.


You’ll need some powerful speakers to catch the opening notes of Billy Gomberg’s False Heat. They rumble around in the depths, a hulking shadow at the very, very bottom of the spectrum, more felt than heard. It’s an immediate signal to listen close and listen well; you won’t be able to half-ass this. A couple of minutes in, a high signal breaks through, a wisp of noise high above the cavernous bass. It flits and fades and then holds its place for a long time, lapping against the void separating it from the next frequency down. We’re held in place, between the two, hovering. Things go bump in the darkness. You hear an intake of breath, the tones shift and we’re covered in a new shade of light.

One one hand, there’s not very much going on, a few tones and noises rubbing up against each other, but the effect is transformative. You follow the low feedback drones and the hollow presence of the sub. Almost metallic overtones emerge above, on the verge of feedback but never quite straying out of control. Gomberg is light of touch but never loose, threading his tones through each other carefully and intuitively. He shifts the focus gradually, quietly transforming the field as he goes.

The second side is somewhat more robust or more active. At least, it takes place a little more in the middle of the spectrum, swirling and pulsing right in front of you rather than slipping constantly from your view like the first. It’s leaner than the first too, thin and vapourish without the constant menace of the bass. At times it grows into something extraordinarily beautiful, layers of sound dappled like the sun on lake waters. Bass wells up and tones appear to rise through the layers around them, up into the ether, rain falling upwards into an infinite, cloudless sky and there it soon begins to hang, a mist of gently clashing distortions. In the end this is all dispersed and we’re left once again with the quiet presence of the bass, a warm, solid earth to lie upon.

I fell asleep under a tree in the garden while listening to False Heat the other day. It was warm and I had my headphones on so the sounds were right up in my ears, at once demanding attention and lulling me, tricking me into unconsciousness. The world slows way down when False Heat is playing and sometimes it stops altogether. I slipped in and out of a waking state, catching snippets of glorious sound and colouring my hazy half-dreams.  (Ian Maleney)

and Darkfloor:

Time to usher in a new wave of slow music. From Brooklyn via False – this is Billy Gomberg.

The opening moments of False Heat are deep – the kind of bass that you can feel in the pit of your stomach. A single held note that slowly evolves as if moving through fog. Although this album is made up of two side-long tracks, each of these seem to be broken up into distinct movements.

Around 9 minutes into False Heat Pt 1 more notes appear from the background hiss reminiscent of a time stretched fog horn before slowly, ever so slowly falling backwards forever into the mist. the entirety is a static cloud held aloft by its one note foundation.

False Heat Pt 2 is, by comparison full to the brim. It has chords and distortion and even hints at melody in its first few minutes. But it’s around 6 minutes in when the deep notes return that the beauty really arrives and everything else suddenly seems so fragile. By 10 minutes things are starting to crumble around me as the distortion gradually builds ushering in yet more bass – I don’t know where he gets it from, but he has a lot of it. This slow, timeless build does eventually, sadly come to an end. At which point I go back to the start.

Billy Gomberg was I have to say, a name I had not heard before, but it’s a name I fully intend to find out more about as this album is by far the best dark ambient/drone/call-it-what-you-will album I have heard in a long time.