Review: Unknown Artist – CKQ (Spricht Editions, Sep 9)

Spricht Editions, run by prolific Danish sound poet and artist Claus Haxholm, semi-frequently upload mysterious albums to their Bandcamp page with no artist listed. Since the last instance of this, Past Vocalisms, was eventually claimed under the label operator’s abbreviated solo moniker c.haxholm, one could probably assume that CKQ is his work as well, but until it’s confirmed the artist remains unknown. Two mid-length pieces comprise the release, the first consisting of nonverbal, senseless utterances like those used for Past Vocalisms and brief moments of fleeting lingual lucidity pitted against what sounds like writhing connection crackles. But it’s quickly revealed that this is, for the most part, a single “speaker” at the mercy of an extremely overblown, low fidelity recording, with occasional cleaner layers added. What follows is a bizarre revue of lip-smacking nonsense, incoherent babbling, and mimicry of alarm tones and/or cuckoo clocks delivered too-close-for-comfort into a broken microphone. The clearer voice recording occasionally resurfaces, but for the most part it’s an abrasive, confusing stumble as you process the moans and cries of this creature who may or may not be human, even the moments where it seems like actual words are being said blocked and shattered by the oppressive static. The second track’s auxiliary elements take the opposite form of more clarity, unseating the original performer’s presence with bassy rumbles and the humming, scratching distance of a broken tape player. It’s at this point the piece becomes truly mesmerizing, mining the evocative essence of dead frequencies and errors in a way not dissimilar to 010001111000 (if CKQ is Claus’s doing, he’ll definitely be happy to hear that comparison). Things don’t stagnate for long, unsurprisingly, and the extradimensional fanfare concludes with a final series of slurps, shrieks, and slaps. A wild ride in just over 22 minutes. What are you waiting for?