steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

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info opinion

Gen Ken Montgomery

"Pondfloorsample" CD

Experimental Intermedia

Genres: experimental, sound art

XI Records
224 Centre Street at Grand, Third Floor
New York, NY 10013

Feb 24 - Mar 2 2003

Conceptual musician Gen Ken Montgomery aka Ken Montgomery aka EGNEKN is well-known on the experimental scene for creating intriguing, inventive sound sculptures from many different sources.  His memorable compositions using household appliances as sound sources are among some of his best, and his ties to the performance art scene of tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE and the fantastic Generator Sound Art label (as well as the Generator sound gallery) prove his variety as a sound artist.

This double-cd set, a career retrospective if you will, gives a nice sample of Montgomery's experimental work to date.  Although the material from his old Gen Ken Beat Musik and Gen Con Live electronic pop cassettes, as well as the surely copyright-infringing Egnekn broken 8-track recordings (essentially a series of old Led Zepellin tunes gutted by a malfunctioning 8-track deck), are missing, this is a fine collection of his more serious sound art.

"Father Demo Swears" takes up thirty-one and a half minutes of the first disc, and for good reason.  A live recording of "amplified violin, voice, a microphone hung outside the window, and four cassettes designed to be played simultaneously" processed live (see more here), it is a mysteriously alluring soundscape that relies just as much on the incidental sounds of cars passing by the window as it does on the sounds produced by the artists themselves.

The short "Radiator I" then follows - it's an excerpt from Ken's work with CHOP SHOP using a rickety old radiator for a source.  An excerpt from "Egnekn's Fridge" comes a bit later; a memorable recording released on the Art is Throwing Money Out The Window label, it documents the sounds inside Montgomery's fridge in wonderful detail.  "Bird Eating," originally created for a Brooklyn sound art exhibition, documents the (very quiet) sounds of a parrot eating nuts in a cage - it's best to listen to it before finding out what's actually been recorded to maintain a sense of mystery.

A few tracks later, we have a two-minute piece called "Laminator Model 2291," which is a recording of a laminator in action.  Montgomery has a special affinity for the sounds of laminators, and this is one of many recordings he's done using the lamination process.

One of the most mysterious tracks on the first disc is "Shortwave Band," which is a haunting, ambient soundscape using a droning shortwave radio feed as its source.  As the microphone is slowly moved away from the radio, the sound becomes farther away, detached.  As it is moved closer, the sound becomes more powerful, intense.  Altogether it's a very effective piece.

The second disc, in contrast to the first, is a collection of live performances.  After a thirty second silence, we are treated to "Droneskipclickloop," a fantastic sound experience that combines the contents of four separate cds - Drone, Skip, Click, and Loop - which are available from Generator Sound Art in an edition of four 3-inch CDRs.  The sounds are derived from a number of sources, including the noises of Andrea Beeman's dance movements.  Although it clearly would have worked best in a live setting, the piece is amazing when played in a dark room - the bizarre noises give off a very trancey, relaxing feeling.

After this comes a piece by the name of "The Aquarium Fishtank Symphony," which is based on the sounds produced by a group of objects gathered from a local Salvation Army the day before the performance.  Among the "instruments" are an eggbeater, a Fisher Price sewing machine, an ice crusher, a fish tank (complete with plastic fish), and an aquarium pump.  The results are a fantastic example of the various types of sounds that can be produced from a bunch of seemingly nondescript objects.

The collection finishes off, quite appropriately, with "Knäckerbröt Action," a two and a half minute recording of the lamination of a piece of Swedish crispbread (called Knäckerbröt).  The struggle of getting the bread through the laminator is quite obvious, and the resulting sounds are mesmerizingly mysterious - what's happening now? ... has it been laminated yet? ... is the machine still working?

Altogether, Pondfloorsample is a terrific collection of Gen Ken's sound art work.  Those familiar with his work will doubtlessly find this album to be a completely rewarding purchase.


Fun Fact: Ken's appreciation of lamination goes far beyond a few simple audio recordings.  He has performed many public "Lamination Ritual" performances in which he hooks up a series of contact microphones to a laminator and then sends something through it to be laminated (previous objects have included a noodle, bubble wrap, and even a fortune cookie).  A CD was released, called The Sound of Lamination, and an online gallery of laminated objects from a Lamination Ritual at the Salvaggio Museum (including the shed skin of a tarantula) can be viewed here.

Matt Shimmer

[Vitals: 19 songs, distributed by Forced Exposure, released 2002]