Amirtha Kidambi & Luke Stewart – Zenith/Nadir
8.5.22 by Matty McPherson
Just what incubates such tenacious sounds? Is it amps and pedals amongst other equipment? Location that brings such disparate voices togetheres? Our pained times that incites it all? I’ve recently had a recurring daydream of Drone festivals. One as a liturgical mending that extrapolate feelings outside the present moments, as much as they document the situation they find themselves in. Amirtha Kidambi and Luke Stewart would both be there together in that daydream. Both have strenuous, muscular range in their approaches to sound conduction. Kidambi’s voice and electronic effects grant it an elasticity; a painted echo of the past or a panopticonic prelude to the future. Stewart’s bass and amplifier feedback prowess has often led to states of post-zen bliss and punk’d noise experiments. They’re both industrious thinkers. Although I can’t comprehend a time I’ve heard either of them as hellacious and studious as on Zenith/Nadir, their open-book drone improvisation for Tripticks Tapes.
Zenith/Nadir has been simmering and stewing since an August 2020 meeting between two at Pioneer Works. “A time where despair and possibility were inextricable,” the Bandcamp summary contextualizes. For the two esteemed improvisers, show-bookers, and ontological new music scribes, it’s a chance to take their complementary approaches in search of blistering territories unknown. Their seven seances are harrowing, improvisations on the brink of being swallowed by the earth whole or thrown to the stratosphere. Both sides favor aversive, yet not opposing or diametric approaches.
The transient opener “Circulation” is practically degrading en media res as Kidambi applies ample effects to her voice. One layer of her voice stands as a mantra-esque drone, while another is jolted and modulated into an epigraph of tumultuous walkie-talkie noise. Meanwhile, Stewart’s engineering and approach to feedback steadies the two dissonant sounds; through cracky tonal static until it finally reaches a low hanging orbit of clarity. “Premonition” is toying with similar effects, although with Stewart’s bass more noticeably beefing out the low-end. “Postmonition” concludes this trio, seeing Kidambi’s voice so beyond-process that it has shapeshifted into a horn instrument crescendoing and bellowing into a bonafide WAIL of a thousand suns. Side A’s closer, the eleven minute “Exaltation,” scales down the noise for more emphasis on the two’s distinct instruments. Kidambi is able to lull us into the industrial lullaby. Even still, the duo continually shift the dimensions of the recording with just a few quivers of Kidambi’s voice or the occasional strum of an upright bass. You can’t quite tell whether this was recorded at Pioneer Works, in a destitute cavern, or at some Port Authority blacksite.
Side B relays the focus into thousand-yard stare acoustic duets, amounting newfangled folk nadirs from the two’s traditions. “Relics,” “Medium,” and “Telepathy” are closer in kinship to ka baird’s Voice Games than an Orb Tapes release. Yet, for Kidambi and Stewart, there is nothing inquisitively gamey about this (even as these tracks are wildly fun). In all three of them, the duo try to keep pace with each other’s freewheeling sleights. I love about a third of the way through “Medium” how Kidambi mends her voice into a machination so suddenly that Stewart is having to drop restraint and move with whimsy, in lieu of brevity. Instead of relying on feedback or suddenness, the closer “Telepathy” sees the duo opt to slow their manner of operation. They draw out notes within their respective instruments. The sonic space is smaller, as if to let the acoustics of this space breathe. There’s a somber aura of near-silence to the piece. It stretches and contortions, a reflection on the zeniths it found itself tangled within just half an hour before.
Edition of 100 tapes in clear transparent shell with white hubs, pro dubbed and printed available at the Tripticks Tapes Bandcamp