Joda Clément and Mathieu Ruhlmann – Kindred

Joda Clément and Mathieu Ruhlmann - Kindred, ambiguous patterns and fish scales against a light background.

The opening track on Joda Clément and Mathieu Ruhlmann’s album “Kindred” is a (very) loose interpretation of Brian Eno’s 1974 song ‘Taking Tiger Mountain’, which is itself a (very) loose interpretation of a Peking opera by the same name about the defeat of bandits by the People’s Liberation Army in 1940s China. The only similarities I could discern between Clément and Ruhlmann’s version and Eno’s is the languid pastoral mood and the slow folksy singing, which takes centre stage in the latter but is simply one disparate element among many in the former. The Canadian pair weave together muted rumbles, squeaks, clatters, and whirs with contributions from various guests, including Cristián Alvear’s guitar and Alexandra Spence’s clarinet. The result is as soothing and as fragrant as the warm mountain air on a late summer’s evening.

‘between regions of partial shadow and complete illumination’ takes a different tack, with waves breaking, spurts of compressed air, spluttering and scraping, and intermittent beeping. Beginning quietly, the piece moves through several gradients of intensity: growing agitated and unsettled, relaxing again, building up to chugging noise, winding down to a gentle hiss. In between these two longer pieces, ‘Against What Light’ wails like higher-pitched whalesong and buzzes with cello; a monologue on revolution gives way to ticking, fizzing, and groaning. Across the album, most sounds are heard for a little while, then discarded never to return; the progression of the music is always forward, always into the new and the unexplored, whether the volume be quiet or moderately loud.

‘Taking Tiger Mountain (version)’ is a piece that many fans of experimental, noise-based music will fall in love with on first listen, and deservedly so. But while this tip of the hat to the god of ambient is undeniably pretty, ‘between regions’ catches you unawares with its subtle shifts in intensity, and for me is slowly becoming the more engaging and enjoyable listen. The good thing is that you don’t have to choose between the two: “Kindred” offers both hushed reverence and nervous energy, wholesome mountain air and scuzzy, dirty tones, without being too jarring or sharp its contrasts. And it’s so much better than that twee Eno song.

Joda Clément

Mathieu Ruhlmann

Marginal Frequency

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