Gurun Gurun: Kon B
Home Normal

If ever a music deserved to be called woozy, it's Gurun Gurun's. Five years on from its self-titled debut on Home Normal, the Czech-based experimental multi-instrumentalists Tomas Knoflicek, Jara Tarnovski, Ondrej Jezek, and Federsel return with the forty-two-minute follow-up, Kon B, a garden of earthy delights if ever there was one. Don't be surprised if words like eccentric, tremulous, amoebic, and child-like also spring to mind as the material on this sophomore set unfolds.

Theirs is a music that evades easy capture, shifting fluidly between genres and often blending them into strange hyrbids. At one moment, the music assumes an electro-acoustic guise but then a moment later flirts with lullaby music, classical, or melodic pop. Credited with an impressively large number of instruments (including guitars of multiple types, keyboards, percussion, woodwinds, harmonica, theremin, samples, turntables, field recordings, and effects), the band members generate an opaque, restless mass of luxuriant sound, but, similar to the group's debut release, the new recording's eight settings also benefit from the involvement of others. Cellist Alexandr Vatagin, viola da gamba (alto and tenor) players Irena and Vojtech Havel, and drummer/percussionist Mikel Etxegarai make key contributions, though it's the vocalizing of Japanese artists Cuushe, Cokiyu, and Miko that humanizes Gurun Gurun's music most of all.

Prodded by an insistent junk percussion rhythm, “Atarashii hi” takes shape when Cuushe's soft vocal appears alongside a drifting backdrop of sickly sounds and acoustic guitar strums. Like much of what follows, the convulsive creation is woven from a staggering number of elements, many of which move briefly to the forefront before vanishing just as quickly into the whole. Like Cuushe, Miko's hushed singing brings order during “Itsuka no Hoshi / Hia” to the flux of creaking strings, glitchy noises, and lumbering noises that constitutes its instrumental form. Vocalizing aside, some of the album's most memorable moments occur during “Koe / Sukuu” and “Beda Folten Supasuta” when brief flourishes of strings, woodwinds, vibraphones, and viola da gambas extricate themselves from the metamorphosizing wholes.

One less listens to Kon B than is absorbed by it, especially when its slow tempo and psychedelic character make it so strongly suggest the character of a dream-state. In general, Gurun Gurun's music appears driven by an equilibrium that pushes it forward to a destination only known to its creators. As a result, the impression left is of musical collaborators playing in a sandbox overflowing with toys.

September 2015