Review: Hoan Kiem Chess Team – Paskal’s Dream (Soft Error, Aug 14)

The only times I’ve encountered the Ciat-Lonbarde Cocoquantus, a very unique custom-built electronic instrument, is during a deafening set by harsh noise legend T. Mikawa and as an element in Dirch Blewn’s Care Work cassette, which came out last year also on Soft Error. Here, on Hoan Kiem Chess Team’s most recent release, the Cocoquantus seems to take on a much more audible role, its “self-reconfiguring spasms” aiding in the restless electronic simmers that bubble up throughout Paskal’s Dream. The tape is an ersatz love letter to nature, a synthetic pastiche of a lush, life-filled swampland, its dense, intricate collages of bubbling growls and scrabbling crackles evoking something robotic yet undeniably organic—not far from the spectral image that adorns the cover. Assisted by the unusual sampling abilities of the Cocoquantus, the artist makes occasional forays into palettes that incorporate more purely natural elements, such as the closely-recorded creaking wood around which “Sleeper” is based, but as a whole Paskal’s Dream presents a dedicated, consistent atmosphere of sublime imitation, and despite its length remains completely engaging for its entire duration.