Alex Keller and Sean O’Neill – Kruos

(Elevator Bath, 2017)

From the interior to the exterior, inside then out, Alex Keller and Sean O’Neill wrap passages of field recordings with synthetic accompaniment, manipulating, oscillating, obfuscating. The two sound artists aim to freeze time with these passages, and even though time actually does pass while listening, from minute one to minute thirty-five, the result is a moment and a place (or places) that exist in that moment, specifically trapped on grooved vinyl for repeat experience. For study, for meditation, for nostalgic rediscovery, Kruos entertains the idea that it functions more as an image than as a sonic enquiry, a photograph of sound framed by Keller and O’Neill’s accompaniment. They display a deft hand in allowing the field recordings to drive the experience, but their obvious fingerprints on the record guide the mood.

The notion of freezing time extends to the title of the record itself – I’m not just whistling Dixie like some uninformed rube here. I’ve read the press materials – kruos is “frozen” or “frost” in ancient Greek, maybe like the “freezing” of time? It’s also “the root of the word krustallos, or crystal,” as in, a crystallized moment in time? You get it. It’s the perfect idea for the record (which comes on clear vinyl by the way – a physical manifestation of Kruos’s crystalline-ness?), as you can almost hear and therefore imagine the mineral formations growing in time-lapse (if that’s what you want to picture as you listen – although you’re going to miss out on a lot of other good stuff if you do).

And it’s that mood sustained within image that gives Kruos its power. “Kruos I” is an exploration of the internal, side A of the record shifting from test recordings to a warehouse, then a medicine cabinet on the Carnival Triumph, and before finally wrapping up with a digital synthesizer. The result is claustrophobic, even as the echoes of the spaces linger. You can envision yourself in these places, or you can let “Kruos I” trap you within your own mind, kickstarting your imagination so that these places become others, and narratives form from within, allowing you to enter into the framed sound photograph, and time there begins a separate track. It’s not entirely unlike the scene in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me when Laura Palmer enters the picture of the door given to her by Mrs. Tremond that Laura has hung on her bedroom wall. Creepy!

“Kruos II” moves outside, beginning with a stop at an urban university’s power plant before being overtaken by magnetic oscillators. Then we spend some time at not one but two lake scenes, finally “closing … at a point of poised stasis (or ‘kruos’).” Here there is less confinement – it’s much easier to breathe in the environment. The pastoral moments especially – filled as they are with the sounds of wildlife, water, a dock (is that thunder in the distance?) – evoke sun-dappled afternoons, color drenching this unwavering landscape, picturesque in its stasis. Closing one’s eyes and getting lost in the view conjured behind the eyelids is as easy as it gets.

Kruos comes in an edition of 250 from Elevator Bath, and is a great inspirational touchstone for sound scientists everywhere.

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