Sound Interpretations: Dedication to Franz Kafka
Review by Kent Manthie
Those of you who are familiar with the work of the brilliant early 20th century author, Franz Kafka will appreciate this new release from the netlabel, HAZE. Various experimental artists have contributed to this effort deserving of the label “Kafka-esque”. In all there are 23 songs on this album – electronic mish-mashes, ambient, atmospheric trance-inducing drones, all put together in a delightful way as a perfect soundtrack for reading any of his many dysphoric tales of personal, inner mental terror, such as Kafka’s iconic novel, The Trial or his short story/novella, Metamorphosis.
Kafka was a terrific writer who wrote lots and lots of short stories as well as a few novels. Some of the more outstanding of his stories include odd allegories and enigmatic tales of strange things happening to iconic individuals – many of them metaphors for the state of European society at the time (in the first and second decades of the 20th century). Titles such as “The Penal Colony”, “The Hunger Artist”, “Metamorphosis” and many others are still very much relevant today. The meanings that lie within these dark and stormy tales are timeless classics that have never ceased to be applicable to society in general – take any era in the past 100 years and apply one of Kafka’s stories to it and you’re bound to come away with a metaphor for that particular time.
Anyway, on Sound Interpretations… many independent, DIY artists have contributed a song or two to this grand collection of very dark-ambient-drone experimental music. A few examples of what can be found on this collection include: “Samsa”, an apt musical accompaniment to “Metamorphosis” – those who know the story will know exactly what I mean when they hear it – with lots of electronic works, synthesizers, etc. Out Level makes this a tingly noise-music song with its insect sounds, clicking and squirming, those who have a phobia of cockroaches or other little bugs may be put in a state of paranoia from this. Vlad Buben adds a nice touch with his song, “Kafka”, a sort of synthetic-symphonic experience that has a uniquely Eastern European ring to it, but also with some neo-classical bent to it – it sounds a bit Stravinsky-esque, with the bells and timbres that haunt some of Igor’s music. The whole album starts off with a 16+ minute drone called “Dream About Loneliness”, another apt title that is fitting for Kafka and his works. Many of the songs range from the five-eight minute length, but like the aforementioned “Dream About Loneliness”, which clocks in at 16:47, there are some other longer tunes – including a song by Wehwalt, called “Anacoulthe K.”, “Josef K”, the name of the protagonist from the iconic novel, The Trial, by Koxdeer as well as a tune from Ike Stirner, whose been featured in other reviews for his own works – he contributes the 11:08 length song, “Kafkaesque Times”, and as I mentioned, there have been many moments in recent history that one could point to and say that they were eras that were very “Kafkaesque” – and the present state of affairs in the world is probably even weirder and stranger and more arbitrary than even the forward looking and imaginative Franz Kafka would’ve imagined!
Along with the neo-electronica drone and ambient atmospheric titles, there are also quite a few songs which take that vibe and add a touch of the symphonic edge to it. On the song “Kettensage Strafkolonie”, Duran Vazquez does a delightful yet chaotic melting pot of noise, cut-up sounds and samples of blood-curdling screams, reminiscent of “The Penal Colony”. In the end, though, this is definitely an album that will be alluring to fans of this great man’s body of timeless and great literature. Even if you haven’t read a single thing of Kafka, the genius and intricacies of the music on Sound Interpretations… will definitely pique your interest. Happy listening! -KM.