Friday, December 13, 2013

Zbigniew Karkowski (1958-2013)

"Many say they are sorry to hear of Zbigniew Karkowsky's death. I, for one, am not.

I still hear Zbigniew's infectious laugh, hear his voice, see the sparkle of mischief in his eyes. Ripping a poster of an exhibition that my piece BLIND DATE was in off the window of a packed Yamanote-sen in Tokyo, then showing it to a suited salaryman and encouraging him to take his children to look for it in the show. Both of us laughing hysterically when the train was gone.

Zbigniew always seemed utterly without fear. His final gesture, traveling for hours in a canoe into the Amazon jungle directly after flights from Europe lasting nearly 24 hours, to be treated by a Shipbo shaman is perfectly in keeping with everything else he did. All the way, no compromise. His final wish, if the treatment failed, was to be left in the jungle to be eaten. No ceremony, no grave. If it succeeded as he hoped, he said he would bring back stories of the adventure. Somehow, I still expect to hear them.

A Karkowsky concert often meant that we would see smoke rising from the burning speakers of the overdriven PA, fumes clearing the room. As much as he seemed to enjoy it when that happened, frankly I doubt that this was ever done for effect: he simply demanded that his music be heard with the power that he intended, that he himself heard. During a residency, one of several, at The Compound in San Francisco, director Naut Humon proudly remembered that Zbigniew played lower frequencies at volumes so high that they shattered the toilet bowl. Musicians who worked with him often spoke of him with unabashed admiration, said they looked forward to a chance to do it again.

Yes, Zbigniew was often cruel when drunk, plenty of those stories to go around. So far, I have yet to meet anyone who isn't. Alcohol is a seductive, motherless bitch to anyone who lets her have her way. She slams doors of friendship shut and, under her influence, Zbigniew slammed a few more than his share.

When Zbigniew moved to Tokyo, he was fortunate enough to meet Atsuko (I never did hear her last name), who stayed together with him for fifteen years, travelled to Greece to spend a last several days together, saw him off in Paris for the flight to Peru. If she and I never meet, here I send her a huge, heartfelt Thank You.

So today, and many more days like it, will be spent thinking of that laugh, that love of entertaining friends, that cavalier and uncompromising sense of daring. One of the first phrases in Japanese that Zbigniew said he learned was 'Omanko wa oishii' -- 'Cunt is delicious'. Here, too, he was absolutely right."

(John Duncan, 13.12.2013.)

Xopher Davidson + Zbigniew Karkowski - 'Processor'

The whole idea is to play this album extremely loud with ultra powerful loudspeakers. So loud that the plaster falls off the wall. Something you can't do at home, I suppose, unless you want to rebuild your home very cheaply. I played this at low volume. The low rumble caused some anguish downstairs.

Zbigniew Karkowski (feat Anton Lukoszevieze) - 'Nerve Cell_0'

The whole piece burbles away a bit. But when you sit long enough into the music, something incredible happens around the 30th minute. The composition starts to move... Hear for yourself! Not on YT of course. The real thing. Play it really loud so the foundations of the house start to shake... That's the whole idea! Play it as loud as you can.

Favourite albums of the year 2013.

BJARNI GUNNARSON - Processes and Potentials (3Leaves) - Einóma man releases a very intricate and organic solo album on field recordings label 3Leaves.

DALGLISH - Niaw Ot Vile (PAN) - Chris Douglas aka O.S.T. aka Dalglish gets picked up by the PAN label for an excellent and eclectic album.

C. SPENCER YEH/OKKYUNG LEE/LASSE MARHAUG - Wake Up Awesome (Software Studio Series) -Ubercellist Okkyung Lee teams up with Yeh and Marhaug for an album that really has it all, it's funny, it's clever and it's moving.

IRA COHEN feat. TESTING VAULT - Fungoid (or the Multimedia Shamanic Poetry of Ira Cohen) (Looney-Tick Productions) - Dani from Testing Vault took some spoken word tracks by the late Ira Cohen and gave them the shruti or Coil treatment in a very respectful manner, it works and it is a nice tribute to one of the greatest poets.

ZBIGNIEW KARKOWSKI (feat ANTON LUKOSZEVIEZE) - Nerve Cell_0 (for cello and computer) (Sub Rosa)- This one was lying on my desk the whole year since it came out, I even managed to play an excerpt on university radio. What can I say? The man died recently in one of these human tragedies...

XOPHER DAVIDSON + ZBIGNIEW KARKOWSKI - Processor (Sub Rosa)- This one too to remember the late great Karkowski.

FRANCK VIGROUX - Prisme (D'Autres Cordes) - The busiest experimental musician of France got it right again with his new album. I wrote somewhere that'Ressac' feels like concrete beats falling on your head. A beast!

GINTAS K - Slow (Baskaru) - Underrated but lovely album by Lithuania's finest experimental artist.

SOLAR BEARS - Supermigration (Planet Mu) - Overlooked but brilliant album by the best Irish band of the moment.

UNSUNG MINDS - Soundpoem Remix Project feat. Tom Smith, Emmanuel Mieville, Gintas K and Dalglish (

Thursday, December 05, 2013

"ON THE PERIPHERY - David Sylvian: A Biography - The Solo Years."

Ira Cohen feat Testing Vault - 'But What In Your Other Hand Lies Concealed'

Excerpt from the album 'Fungoid (or The Multimedia Shamanic Poetry of Ira Cohen)' by Testing Vault featuring the voice of Ira Cohen, A Looney-Tick Productions, 2013.