Danny Saul: Kinison - Goldthwait

Somewhat inexplicably, Danny Saul has elected to orient the presentation of his latest release around two famously obnoxious US comedians, one deceased and the other still alive. The former, the loud-mouthed Sam Kinison, and the latter, Bobcat Goldthwait, who some might remember from his appearances in the Police Academy films, had an infamous dustup on Howard Stern's radio show. Though the Manchester, UK-based Saul, who issued the 2009 collection Harsh, Final, manages White Box Recordings, and performs with Greg Haines under the name Liondialer, uses these details as a springboard, that he does so ultimately proves to be of minor import, as the album is wholly instrumental and can be experienced perfectly well minus the associations (Saul reportedly said that while working on the recording, he couldn't stop thinking about the three individuals and the incident on the Stern show). At the same time, there are moments during the recording when programmatic parallels can be drawn between the tracks and their titles.

Kinison – Goldthwait is very much in keeping with Hibernate's propensity for textural ambient-electronic soundscaping, as Saul, using acoustic and electronic materials, processes his source materials into long-form settings of abstract design. In contrast to the comedian's rough-edged persona, the three-part suite “Kinison (Parts 1-3)” presents thirteen minutes of heavily treated, piano- and guitar-generated ambient elegance. Perhaps designed to suggest the angelic soul concealed by Kinison's abrasive public persona, the piece is delicate and gentle in the extreme, with the third part especially glacial in tempo and languorous in character. “Robert Francis (Bobcat Goldthwait)” opts for a darker and more tension-filled plunge into low-end rumble that eventually mutates into a central episode of analog splendour where a backdrop of multiple synthesizer lines rise and fall while a solo voice muses querulously overtop. Such placidity recedes during the home stretch when the material grows louder and fuzzier, as if covered in grime, but rather than climaxing in a fireball of noise, it pulls back in the other direction, content to let the subsequent piece push things to their limit. The opening mood of “On Howard Stern” is one of dark portent, as if to signal the rough ride ahead. Over the course of its thirteen minutes, a metallic wave gradually rolls in and then builds into a colossus that's like a tidal wave of symphonic strings hellbent on decimating a seaside town. Arriving as it does after that storm, “On U.S Route 95 April 10, 1992” functions as a peaceful and graceful coda realized largely with reverb-drenched piano and organ.

In essence, the album—well-timed at about forty-five minutes—is a three-part recording, with Kinison, Goldthwait, and Stern each given equal time in the spotlight. Presenting the material as such allows Saul to present three portraits of the individuals in question and the incident that brought them together, with Kinison's less caustic side emphasized and Goldthwait's agitated persona and the climactic showdown that occurred on Stern's show intimated in turn. Once again, however, it's worth noting that the recording needn't be broached on such literal terms, as it functions just as effectively as a purely instrumental statement divorced from such real-world details.

January 2011