(Dismal Niche, 2015)
If ever the trickle of water dripping from the leaves of a forest after a rainstorm sounded so important, I can’t think of a single instance. “Freckled Hands,” the lead track to M. Crook’s cassette EP Kahani on Dismal Niche, foregrounds the natural sonics for almost six minutes while a guitar gently picks and a synth weightlessly hovers behind and beneath it. Or that’s what I heard on the first pass anyway – the water is so prevalent that it’s almost difficult to tell how seamlessly the entire thing is layered together. It’s all foreground. Or all background, depending on how you’re listening to it.
Kahani means “story” or “fable,” and Crook means for you to sit back and hear the wordless tales of south Asian mysticism brought to exquisite life. You can hear them in every drop of “Freckled Hands,” no matter what manifestation they take in your mind. It’s a strength in this short tape that Crook and his small stable of collaborators (credits include B. Chlapek – synth, J. Louis – field recordings, and of course the gorgeous cover photo is credited to L. Maybrier) are able to wring such enticing audio from their limited repertoire, and open what can only be described as magical naturalistic doorways into a pantheon of traditional narratives.
“Ylla” replaces the inherent movement of “Freckled Hands” with a more passive experience. The sounds of the forest enhance the synthesizer drone here, and settle you in for the (relatively) long haul of the rest of the EP. It’s the title track, though, that really shines. “Kahani” takes up side B in its entirety, and over thirteen minutes explores a bevy of emotional states, but it’s mainly euphoria. Actually, it mostly explores euphoria – it leaves me in a fairly euphoric state, at any rate. It begins in a lake of warm synthesizer, which only lasts for about two minutes before it switches to the main attraction: Crook’s powerful expressions realized through heavily reverbed acoustic guitar. It feels like a culmination of all that’s gone before, stretched and retold until meaning bleeds into itself and place masters time. It feels eternal.
Kahani is a great introduction to Crook, and a gorgeous cycle that celebrates terrestriality, our earthbound humanness. It’s easy to spin at any time, and, especially on “Kahani,” is an immersive experience, flecked with enchantment and wonder. How better to spend twenty-four minutes of your life? If you play it twice, you’ll kill forty-eight minutes. Continue repeating if you like. And the tape is limited to 15 copies – act fast!
RIYL: Lee Noble, Benjamin Finger, Black Eagle Child