Ahnnu Perception

[Leaving; 2015]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: tape music, found sound, hip-hop, field recordings
Others: Jar Moff, Susan Balmar, NHK’Koyxeи

My recent fascination for field recordings got me thinking about what makes certain pieces within that practice more affecting than others. For me, a lot of it has to do with specific sounds or natural effects that are unplanned or unexpected, but that strike a nerve and provoke a moment’s pause. These moments act as a trigger for reflection and recollection that range from the creepy to the hopeful, but they don’t often appear with such potency in most musical contexts. And yet, I find that almost every Ahnnu track offers a handful of these moments within their typically brief lifespans, not as “field recordings,” but as recordings from deep within the field. In the case of Perception, they stem from a connection with hip-hop, but only at the furthest cusp of its most experimental fringes.

When Leland Jackson dropped Couch, his first cassette as Ahnnu, back in 2011, it redefined any stereotypical approach to the beat tape. He incorporated those key moments that tend to occur in field recordings and built new environments for them by way of his own abstract taste. Although Couch was still rooted in hip-hop, the beats sprawled out within the experimental nature of their medium, bringing to mind tracks like “Skit n’ Scatterin’” or “Ripping It” by Sensational, who famously rapped over Stockhausen cuts with little more than a 4-track and a pair of headphones used as a mic on Loaded with Power. The roughness of Julius Bobb’s beats complemented his flow and his lyrics, and even though Ahnnu seldom adds discernible vocals to his productions, interesting parallels can be drawn here.

Ahnnu’s merging of field recording and hip-hop became particularly apparent on World Music (see “ghillie in the mist,” “non2,” and “found”) before it unravelled into the suggested ambiance of Battered Sphinx, which shed all but minimal traces of hip-hop sampling. Perception, like its 2013 precursor, is far removed from the gun shots and pump action of Couch, but it revels in the muddy thrust of Loaded with Power. It’s the bridging together of sounds that allow for Ahnnu to exploit those moments otherwise unique to field recording, which he then binds with the coarse textures and self-assured grit of 90s experimental hip-hop. It feels like any extroverted tropes were left at the door on last year’s killer footwork exercise Menace in the Phantom (which he dropped as Cakedog), while the affinity for accidental breakthroughs and minimal compositions has been reserved for this, his second cassette on Leaving Records.

Perception finds Ahnnu tampering with volume, pitch, and rhythm in the midst of the shivering hum that drives the album forward while camouflaging its detail. The cassette moves at an almost unnoticeable pace, but it’s filled with delicious rhythms, like the scrambled marching drum of “Scaling,” the flickering pulse of “Intercept,” and the dust-flecked loops on “Elastic.” These percussive tracks carve a form for the ambient subtleties that seem to have the most impact due to their length and timbre. This is wonderfully refined on “The Racer” or even “Anneal,” with its transitory exhalations and crumpled echo, recalling some of the more introverted tracks on 2012’s prohabitat.

Behind the fuzz, drone, and patchwork perplexities that marry hip-hop recollections with the likes of Chris Watson and even Arca (I’m thinking of the vocal cuts on “Multibody”), there lies a daring release that sees Ahnnu at the height of his game. There are fragments of tintinnabuli, kosmiche, and jazz that are ingrained in the mix of this brilliantly ambitious work, which remains just as low key as Ahnnu’s previous releases. And although you might have to seek these sequences out and forge your own ties with them, that’s what makes this music so engrossing, even when it comes in the form of that brittle popping on “Sugar in the Dark” or the crystalline fluctuations on “The Racer.” Like all good field recordings, and even the most revered hip-hop artists, Ahnnu doesn’t care if his chosen collection of sounds don’t naturally sit alongside each other — in fact, it suits him a whole lot better that way.

Links: Ahnnu - Leaving

Eureka!

Some releases are so incredible we just can’t help but exclaim EUREKA! While many of our picks here defy categorization and explore the constructed boundaries between ‘music’ and ‘noise,’ others complement, continue, or rupture traditions that provide new forms and ways of listening. Not all of our favorites will be listed here, but we think each EUREKA! album is worthy of careful consideration. This section is a work-in-progress, so expect its definition to be in perpetual flux.

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