Kangding Ray

Minimal Catharsis

Kangding Ray

18-12-2013 | 18.28

Taking a minimalistic approach means achieving more with less. Sadly, the majority of so-called minimal seems to achieve less with less. Raster-Noton is my favourite exception. The German label is continually redefining the boundaries of electronic music. In fact, it's hard for me to imagine that this music will ever sound old.

Witnessing a Raster-Noton artist performing is different from listening to a typical DJ or live set. The meticulously designed and functional sounds are often linked to visuals, creating a complete experience that demands and deserves full attention. When people accidentally walk into such a performance, like a while ago when Byetone played in De Verdieping, you always see confused and fascinated faces. People either leave or immerse themselves in the music.

Kangding Ray (David Letellier) is an exception within the exception that is Raster-Noton. Letellier's rhythmic elements are similar to those of Alva Noto, Byetone and Bretschneider, but he often adds looming ambiances to them, filling the emptiness with a sense of dread. Sparsely placed voices, not robotic but soft and human, set his sound further apart. In his most characteristic moments Letellier induces a feeling of catharsis, where everything opens up and a sense of relief sets in. A Protest Song, on the 2008 album Automne Fold, is the prime example for this. About halfway, the song changes in a way that somehow reminds me of the climax of Dayvan Cowboy by Boards of Canada. Interestingly, these elements make Kangding Ray's records more accessible, but seldom less radical than those of his peers.

Like others on Raster-Noton, Letellier has slowly moved closer to techno. Recent offerings are longer and more track-like, at times the techno influences eclipse the voices and the softness of earlier records. In January, the new album called Solens Arc will be released. A recently published teaser suggests that it will lean more towards techno than any album before. It appears though that Letellier has managed to transform his sound without leaving his trademark behind. The cathartic moments are still there. 

Kangding Ray will be in De Verdieping on December 21st.

Text: AM