July 11, 2005

Kash "Open"

Maybe there’s something in the water, but it feels to me like Italian post-rock bands make their music sound sleazier and more sinister than that of their American counterparts. For instance, Three Second Kiss is what Shellac would sound like if Steve Albini were the kind of guy who pinched the behinds of random girls he passed on the street. If Godspeed You Black Emperor composed background music for a séance, it would probably sound like Larsen. Starfuckers barely touch their instruments, but every sound they make is imbued with the presence of evil. With their debut full-length Open, Turin-based band Kash positions itself as another item to add to the list of post-rock bands from their home country that are possessed by forces that just…ain’t…right.

Most of the credit for the menace in Kash’s music can go to vocalist Stefano Abba, whose delivery can switch from the asthmatic wheezing of US Maple’s Al Johnson to the satanic caterwauling of Old Time Relijun’s Arrington de Dionyso at the drop of a dime. When he whispers the words “sexual secret” into the microphone on “Porno Space,” the average listener will shudder at the thought of just what that secret might be. On “America,” he barks out the words “together forever” not with the warmth of a lover, but instead with the desperation of a stalker. Stefano’s most harrowing vocal performance comes on Open‘s final song, “Cactus Heaven.” In it, he shrieks for an unnamed antagonist to “please save me one more time! Don’t forget me! Tell me what to do! Please help me!” The intensity of Stefano’s voice coupled with his position in the back of the mix makes him sound like a mental patient hollering from the other side of a really long hallway.

The other members of Kash do a good job of backing Stefano up with equally unhinged music. Many of the best songs on Open find the band augmented by guitarist Mitch Cheney and saxophonist Steve Sostak, formerly of Chicago jazz/punk giants Sweep the Leg Johnny. Together, Cheney and Kash guitarist Paride Lanciani kick up a wonderful ruckus on “Toys,” trading queasy pitch-modulated single-note riffs with moody arpeggios. On “Eyes,” Sostak’s sax imitates Abba’s wailing perfectly, and the result can clear a room of unsuspecting listeners within seconds. However, Kash rarely allows its music to scale the heights of Sweep, as they frequently undercut their own momentum with random stops, starts and dynamic changes. Songs like “Too Bad” and “Cheese Cake” don’t develop an actual meter until they’re almost over.

Kash’s insistence on screwing with the pace of their music can be just as much of a curse as it is a blessing. Open is sequenced so that the two quietest songs are right in the middle; listeners may already be well into their slumber by the time the minute-long blast of “Radio Cherokee” comes along. Likewise, “Cheese Cake” wastes five-and-a-half minutes on little more than a lazy slide guitar and catatonic mumbling; the 30-second racket that closes the song is a scant payoff. Too much tension and not enough release can lead to boredom. If Kash learns this lesson before making their next record, their music will be the perfect tonic for horny men on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

--Sean Padilla

Artist Website: http://www.kash.it
Label Website: http://www.sickroomrecords.com

No comments: