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Friday, November 24, 2017 
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Klang
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No Sound Is Heard
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There's an amazing sense of restraint at play on the debut disc by Klang, an essentialist trio based in London, who play their spartan tunes with the sort of deadpan reductionism that marked the fleeting career of Young Marble Giants a quarter-century ago. But where the YMG three were always kept on the straight and narrow by a marching-in-time drum machine, Klang have Zen-like Keisuke Hiratsuka on "drums," and, in the spirit of the combo's barely-there aesthetic, he's happy enough to work with the tiniest reminders of rhythm, capriciously shifting to different parts of his kit and working, with focus, on building beats from the most basic building-blocks: just quietly tapping at a single cymbal, randomly plonking at some detuned tuned-percussion, or keeping a skeletal song anchored with the simple stomp of a bass drum.

Hiratsuka's playing is at the center of Klang's minimalist sound, where his rudimentary rhythm-keeping is regularly draped in metronomic guitar harmonics, and a bass-guitar pulse that seems to beat only every other bar, this topped off with murmured singing whose hushed syllables are oft delivered like deadpan incantations. I've often thought of Quix*o*tic — the gently-gothic rock-trio headed by punk/soul sisters Christina and Mira Billotte — as being prime examples of reductionist rock 'n' roll, boiling things down to the bare-bones underneath all the pressed flesh and needless accoutrements of regulation rock. But Klang take things much, much further, their gentle distillation of the essential making their slightly-built songs sit somewhere between a moody pop-tune and a Rothko canvas.

On their debut album, No Sound Is Heard, the trio deliver nine of these Zen-like numbers, working with such a stringent palette that an actual drum-beat — like on "Help Is on Its Way" — or the triggering of a solitary electro-tonal sample — like on "Good and Evil," or the appropriately named "We Step Softly" — seems like some sort of bombast. In this, the disc clocks in at just a shade under 27 minutes, and it's all so bashful — in its arrangements, packaging, and running time — that it almost seems too frail to survive in the orgiastic rock-revivalist hype-machine that is the current British music scene. Its title almost seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy: when you play this quietly, and don't play the rock-biz game, no sound will be heard.

Yet, the great irony is that the driving force behind all their musical minimalism is Donna Matthews, formerly of Elastica. The significance of this may not translate to audiences outside of the UK who weren't subjected to the daily gossip-rag updates of Damon and Justine, Brit-pop's King and Queen, but Matthews herself was often splashed across tasteless pages after a nasty 1997 falling out with Justine Fleischmann that threatened to kill Elastica for good. Her mere presence makes Klang notable in England, but, so far, Matthews has kept her little trio firmly out of the musical spotlight, preferring to let their gentle music speak for itself. The volume and pace Klang operate at, then, is just a way to make sure that you're really listening.


by Anthony Carew




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