Album Review: Koi Karp – Dances With Dragons

Koi Karp is an experimental electronic collaboration started in 2018 by musicians Ade Rowe (Harsh Noise Movement, Awkward Geisha) and Igor Jovanovic (Lezet). ‘Dances with Dragons’ is Koi Karp’s 5th album and was released February 27th 2021 on Machine Tribe Recordings.

The follow up to their 2020 release Rivers of Ramen (reviewed here) and their first release since the global pandemic really took hold, Dances with Dragons finds the band in a very reflective and surprisingly chilled out mood. The LP is split across five tracks and opens with the brilliant ambient minimalist piano of ‘Awkward Geisha in the Cowzone’. Its running time of nearly 18 minutes is added to with gentle noise towards the end, but the whole track is basically made up with the most beautiful and melancholic piano. It’s a most welcome tonic for these anxious times that we currently live in. Good stuff.

Follow up ‘White’ is a gentle collage of old school dial up internet sounds and minimalist beats. Again, a seemingly perfect soundtrack to current pandemic living. ‘Azure’ is another lengthy track made up of minimal piano chord progressions, this time supplemented by wood instrumentation, bits of noise and field recordings. Yet another cathartic piece of work that is punctuated by interesting and understated pieces of noise for the last 5 minutes.

‘Black’ is another shorter track that is made up of seemingly found noises combined with minimal instrumentation. Very atmospheric and reminiscent to the noisescape work on last years LP Rivers of Ramen.

Final track ‘Yellow’ is another lengthy work (30.57) that again surrounds the listener in gentle instrumentation, noise and atmospheric ‘found’ sounds. They really are just gorgeous sounds and the right tempo for these current times. The track eventually comes to a close in a crescendo of noise and instruments battling to the bitter end. Yet another exquisite lesson in controlled ambient noise. Glorious stuff.

With three of the tracks taking up most of the mammoth 79 minute running time, the album at times could to some feel hard going and overlong. However, this ultra-minimalist approach is what makes this LP work. The gentle repetition of the piano chords, blending with burst of ambient noise is very reminiscent of Godspeed You! Black Emperor at their most minimal. Listened to late at night in a darkened room, this LP calms the listener and allows them time and space to reflect on the last twelve months.

Since their last release, Koi Karp appear to have mellowed in terms of the sonic intensity and noise/dance barrage of their excellent previous release. Instead, they have somehow managed to channel the intensity of living during a pandemic lockdown into an ambient soundtrack to a twelve month period of anxiety and stress.

What this pandemic also brought to the fore was an uncertainty for the future. What will the world look like going forward? This LP feels like a soundtrack to quiet reflection, rebuilding, reimaging and recouping. Personally, I feel this is exactly what the sonic doctor ordered. Great stuff.

Dances With Dragons is out now as a digital download – get it now via Bandcamp.

Follow Harsh Noise Movement on Facebook / Bandcamp

Review by Ioan Humphreys

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