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KTU: 8 Armed Monkey (2005)

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KTU: 8 Armed Monkey How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

King Crimson percussionist Pat Mastellotto and ex-Crim Warr guitarist Trey Gunn (who work together as the duo TU) combine with accordionist Kimmo Pohjonen and samples maven Samuli Kosminen (known together as Kluster) to form KTU—pronounced "K2." 8 Armed Monkey was essentially recorded live in Tokyo and Helsinki—the basic tracks, anyway—and then edited and structured by Mastelotto after the fact. While this is dense, often electronically-imbued music, it can essentially be played live; its teeming stew of samples and live playing occur in real time.

Just because the vast array of sounds are being produced by musicians on a stage doesn't make it simple to describe. It's not difficult to discern Pohjonen's accordion or Gunn's Warr guitar (a multi-octave touch instrument that combines elements of bass and guitar). But the vocal on "Sumu"—is it sung live by Pohjonen and altered electronically, or is it a vocal sample manipulated digitally by Kosminen? (The former, I think.) Is the bell-like repeating percussive phrase used in the breakdowns on "Absinthe" a sample cued by Mastelotto? Or Kosminen? (Mastelotto, I believe.)

The entire CD has countless sounds whirring and clacking around the more discernable elements, and without seeing the band live—and perhaps having the musicians demonstrate how they work the gear—it's not really possible to nail down what these sounds are or who's making them on what device.

No matter, because the music is, after all, a whole. "Optikus" is a churning, polyrhythmic behemoth with crisp percussion samples propelling Pohjonen's anxious, forboding accordion. There are no soloists per se, yet musical parts do rise above the stew and take a central role—witness Gunn's lovely, liquid Warr guitar lines that enter the blend midway through the piece, joined by a low-mixed sung Pohjonen vocal and a tuned percussion part. These elements recur at the end of the song, so one can consider this section a sort of theme or head to the track.

"Absinthe" really showcases the immense musical talents of Gunn and Mastelotto. The drummer's kit work throughout this driving, rhythmically knotty tune is downright scary, especially his savage, thwapping snare accents. Gunn's bass line is equally authoritative. Kosminen threads a fascinating, Middle Eastern muezzin-like vocal sample through Gunn and Mastelotto's attack, helping make the song the album's best.

Most of the tracks are teemingly dense, but "Sineen" provides a calming oasis in the very center of the CD—even if its slow-motion, coalescing opening does eventually build into an almost sprightly, sparkling tempo. Pohjonen's melancholic, sighing accordion is quite lovely over a dancing sea of real and sampled percussion.

8 Armed Monkey is an absorbing and unique collaboration of talents, and its brevity is a strength: just as you think you're figuring this stuff out, the album's over. Fans of Kluster, King Crimson, and various Crim subdivisions like ProjeKct Two won't be utterly blindsided by KTU's sound. Yet its sound is its own, and the album is a good one.

Track Listing: Sumu; Optikus; Sineen; Absinthe; Keho.

Personnel: Trey Gunn: Warr guitar; Samuli Kosminen: accordion samples, voice samples; Pat Mastelotto: rhythmic devices; Kimmo Pohjonen: accordion, voice.

Record Label: Thirsty Ear Recordings

Style: Fringes of Jazz


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