I first spoke with Stephen Kasner over the summer of 2007. The idea was to collaborate on the second Utech Records fine art series. That first conversation was extensive. To be honest, I could have drawn enough inspiration from that call to last me a lifetime. Stephen is that kind of person. He brings so much creativity and passion to a project that he can’t help but elevate other people to his level. Anyone who knows Stephen will tell you this. His dedication to his art and his genius have never failed to astound me over the last three years. From the moment I saw the first canvas I knew that the series was to become something special. And it has in many ways.
Stephen interpreted each recording on a level I never thought possible. There is an energy out there. A plane of connectivity that he taps into. I truly believe he has woven this energy through the series and everyone involved. It is mysticism of the highest order and Kasner is the shaman. I would have conversations with artists in the period between delivering the music and seeing the art. They would tell me things and convey experiences. Life experiences and things about making the music. These things would manifest in Kasner’s work without his prior knowledge. It got to the point where it was spooky. There were other instances where an artist would see Stephen’s cover art and would reveal things after the fact that neither of us could have known.
Creating something like this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and that is not lost on me for a second. I could not have done any of this work without the efforts of all involved. My gratitude goes on and on. It has been an incredible journey and an achievement that stands testament to the tangible experience of art and music.
The original press release from 2007:
Utech Records will invoke a connate soul next year in visual artist Stephen Kasner to develop a second fine art series of cd releases for the label. The series, as yet unnamed, will comprise nine volumes of 750 copies each over the course of 2008 beginning in April. Kasner has committed the bulk of his next year's output to painting original and exclusive canvases. His subject matter has yet to be disclosed, but the artist has spoken in general terms of a new direction he wants to explore in his work. A package unique to the series has been designed to highlight Kasner's residuum and the accompanying music.
The foundation of the series is the belief that a visual device can bind a disparate body of music in a meaningful way. The genesis of this idea was first explored with photographer Max Aguilera-Hellweg in 2007 and the result was Utech Records' acclaimed Arc Series. Fruit borne from that venture has led to this stab at further examination. Kasner immediately saw value in the theory and agreed to help cultivate and refine it.
Artistic study aside, the guts of this series is the music and the conviction that it alone will give rise to its life. Utech and Kasner discussed at length the curatorial undertaking and a virulent battery of musicians was selected. Skullflower, Heavensore, Runhild Gammelsaeter, Aluk Todolo and Final with more to be announced at a later date.
Sure to be an archetype for the music/art proposition in the coming year, the series has been intentionally left open ended. The two have agreed to let ideas evolve naturally and it will remain to be seen just how far things will go. There is a lot on the table and not all of it is being revealed at this point.
The box will only be for sale through Utech Records. Each set contains all nine releases in a custom engraved archival box with logo by Stephen Kasner. Also included is a remix cd with one track from each artist based on their original material. A booklet highlights new, exclusive art and text by Kasner and Jenks Miller. The crown jewel of the set is a folder with nine art cards. Each folder was hand-adorned by Kasner in silver ink and houses cards detailing the booklet art. Each set is numbered out of 90. No two are the same.
Skullflower Desire for a Holy War
URCD015 / URSK1
Desire for a Holy War is mayhem piled on top of mayhem piled on top of squalls of caustic feedback. Furies spitting oaths of shrouded vengeance from ancient tongues. Plague riders dealing death on mounts of venomous ether, hooves pounding the wild earth. Matthew Bower may have reached a watershed with last year's Abyssic Lowland Hiss (Heavy Blossom) but it is with Desire for a Holy War that he has come to conquer. Never has Skullflower sounded so severe or remorseless.
URCD016 / URSK2
The forsaken mother has birthed a godhead. A triune declaration of intent rich in the beliefs of the Tabula Smaragdina and Solomonic Magic. Asmodai/Sammael reigns as the king of impurity spreading his blackened sovereignty like so much tar upon the heart of man. And as all things were by the contemplation of one; so all things arose from this one thing by adaptation.
Runhild Gammelsæter Amplicon
URCD017 / URSK3
Runhild Gammelsæter (Thorr's Hammer, Sunn0))), Khlyst) releases her first solo recording. The purpose was to create something organic sound with and about life. A lonely thing, like life, arisen from void. Stillness and a microphone, vocal chords. An idea, thoughts, a goal. Sounds of cycles of life and death, birth and cessation, described with terminology from physics, chemistry and biology. Creating by amplifying an infinitely small idea creating an Amplimer, an Amplicon. Amplicons are pieces of DNA formed as the products of natural or artificial amplification events. Like evolution, giving rise to animal forms with ability to reproduce and die. Amplifying from a minute non-tangible idea something larger which may be experienced with the auditory sense. In physics, matter creation is the appearance of elementary particles in physical processes; the opposite of annihilation. Amplicon see Gammelsæter as a creation operator, increasing the number of particles in a given state, taking the operation necessary to amplify ideas to sound. Mixed by Tore Ylvisaker of Ulver.
The Stargazer's Assistant Shivers and Voids
URCD018 / URSK4
David J. Smith (Guapo, Miasma & The Carousel Of Dead Horses) releases a second set of recordings as The Stargazer's Assistant. Following The Other Side of the Island on Aurora Borealis, Shivers and Voids is a union of instrument, voice and tape. A soundtrack waiting for the right film to accompany it through the dark. Sweeping, intricate, sometimes ominous, yet always exuding a warmth of emotion. Ancient forests, vast plains, billowing clouds, rusted metal hulks, wet rock walls, lights flickering in darkness. The Stargazer's Assistant reveals all this to us.
URCD019 / URSK5
Klangmutationen are arcanum manifest. Atrocious relics summoned from great depths. Old secrets bound in reverent mouths for fear that their utterance will spoil the object itself. Hailing from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the underground musicians reference early recordings on FMP, Caspar Brötzmann Massaker, Solmania and the Takayanagi/Abe axis of Japanese free music. The black reverb and bleak ambience of the first audible intonations presage the ire that is to come. A dark, baleful recording, Schwarzhagel is the sound of a spirit falling past its own life after death, forever.
RST Tomorrow's Void
URCD020 / URSK6
New Zealand’s Andrew Moon has spent the past decade plus as RST, finding the one thing the electric guitar was truly meant to do - make a holy noise. Somewhere between the hum of the amplifier and the vibration of untouched strings lies electricity's nervous system. Sound reduced to its cold essentials. Unsettled waves sluiced through luxuriant effects and delays. The gristle of the electrical grid harnessed and reconfigured as exquisite ostinato.
Final Dead Air
URCD021 / URSK7
Justin K Broadrick (Godflesh, Ice, Painkiller, God, Jesu) is an iconoclast, a destroyer. Whether by scourge or more subtle measure he is unafraid to loose the blood of enemies. Final, the apotheosized slayer. Shifting, flowing, ascending. A life’s work. Dead Air takes hold and abducts the last of your breath with cruel ceremony. The most austere Final recording yet.
Aluk Todolo Finsternis
URCD022 / URSK8
Aluk Todolo are a recondite creature. Part okkult black metal fiend and part snide kraut menace. Somehow the doppelganger works and Finsternis proves for a second time there is brilliance in the absence of light. Dry, spare percussion grievously mines the scrapes, shrieks and shimmer of mutated guitar and bass. Finsternis is the German word for eclipse, mimetic of cyclic elements, phases and unphases, endless rebeginnings, broken circles and perfect circles. A dangerous, noxious coil of all things black.
Blood Fountains Floods
URCD023 / URSK9
There is no beginning, there is no end, only perpetual oscillation between experience, memory and gravity. Emotion propels our lives, connected to one another and all things through infinity. Floods reaches inward, to the icy depths of the heart to touch and to return with ancient elements unfolding in spectral bliss and horror. Reality of pain and agony is equally married with yearning, dreaming and joyous exaltation. Stephen Kasner evokes a fully-realized painting-to-music translation, with collaborations by David Beaver, Mat Woods, Cheryl Pyle and the vexing vocals of Yoshiko Ohara (Bloody Panda). Floods calls forth a remarkable section of time and feeling, simultaneously compressed and unfurling. A frozen monster of memories, hope and love, and a constant reminder of death's door. Seamless, endless, connected energy. These are fragments of hauntings within us all. We must always remember.