Jason Kahn 
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Jason Kahn
"On Metal Shore"
Editions 001 LP

Edition of 250
Heavy weight 180 gram vinyl.
Hand-painted covers on thick gray cardboard.

Composed and recorded 2008-2010 by Jason Kahn in Zurich and Horw, Switzerland
and Nodar, Portugal.

Cover artwork by Jason Kahn.

Side A: 18:19
Side B: 18:40

Excerpt Side A

Excerpt Side B

Price including registered post to Europe: 21.00 euros

Price including registered post to rest of the world: 23.00 euros

Price including post within Switzerland: 20.00 swiss francs

The idea for "On Metal Shore" goes back to the 2008 collaboration "Vista" with Boston artist Asher. The genesis of this piece was early morning recordings I made on the shores of the Lake of Zurich in 2007, where I played some very resonant steel railings with my hands. There was something magical for me about being down by the water an hour or so before sunrise. My hands were freezing and as I played a flock of birds in a tree nearby would fly away from my noise (even though I wasn't playing very loudly) and then re-group again only minutes later, repeating the whole process over and over again during the course of the recording. I had the sense that I was engaging with the environment on several levels, from the give and take of the birds to the rising sound levels of my playing in response to the incoming waves lapping at the concrete retaining wall below the steel railing.

I wanted to re-visit this approach with "On Metal Shore," which takes its title from this first experience on the shores of the Lake of Zurich playing with metal railings. "On Metal Shore" was recorded from 2008-2010. The composition uses not only recordings made of me playing found metal constructions outside but studio recordings of various metal objects and percussion instruments being vibrated with sound waves played through different types of transducers. In a sense, then, "On Metal Shore" is a composition about percussion, but not only. It's also about the idea of "playing" with an environment and taking my percussionist's skills outside the studio and into uncontrolled situations.

Some of the other location recordings for "On Metal Shore" were made at the Binaural Residency in Nodar, Portugal, where I found some water tanks with good sounding metal ladders welded to them. More lakeside recordings were made, this time on the shores of the Lake of Luzern, while on another residency at the Haus am See in Horw. In this case, a small dock nearby the house where I was staying had a line of steel railings which were incredibly resonant and played nicely with the water quietly splashing against the nearby boats and the dock's wooden piles. At a construction site in Oerlikon, a suburb of Zurich, I found some long metal pipes which I recorded with the microphones placed deep inside, tapping lightly on the pipes with my fingers. The rumble of passing trains running parallel to the site provided a good juxtaposition to my playing. And at a school nearby where I live I found a drainage pipe closed off with a large plate of steel, which responded to the lightest of playing with a soft mallet. In the distance, water running down another pipe offered a strong contrast to the ringing tones of the steel plate.

In my studio I set up a mini version of my installation "Wires (2008)" and experimented with various frequencies of sound waves vibrating the steel wires, recording this in front of tin can resonators attached to the wires. I also made recordings of other metal objects and drums activated with various transducers, ranging from small piezo elements to large "bass shakers."

I had never set out to compose a piece for percussion, but I guess in the end this is "What On Metal Shore" is, though perhaps not just about the sound of percussion but about the idea of how and where I play it, be it outside or in the studio, with my hands or without, set vibrating by the oscillation of sound waves or accompanied by a flock of birds or the sound of water.

Jason Kahn
November, 2011


This evening didn't start so well once I got home from work. I don't recommend rubbing freshly chopped chilli into your eye. It hurts a lot and it takes about an hour for the sting to subside enough to open your eye again. I also don't recommend trying to eat your dinner with your eyes closed either. Or at least, not with a clean t-shirt on. Still, after tonight's mishaps I spent time with a vinyl album I have been playing on and off for a couple of weeks and enjoying a lot- the new solo, self released album by Jason Kahn named On Metal Shore.
The album consists of two compositions, one on each side of the hefty 180g vinyl. Both of the pieces are computer sequenced arrangements of percussive recordings made by Kahn, but with a large amount of the contributing material recorded outside using found metal objects- railings, water tanks, pipes etc. Many of these items were found on beaches or beside lakes or other bodies of water, though not all of them, and various other external sounds make their way into the compositions via these recordings, birdsong, running water, passing trains etc. Kahn plays these found metal items with mallets and other items, tapping out very simple repetitive figures, but also passing sound waves through them using various transducers.
The end results are very fine indeed. There are three kinds of sound that seem to be audible throughout the two works. We hear the rapid clockwork of Kahn's metronomic tapping, often on its own, on different metal objects, sometimes buried under other sounds. Then there are all kinds of fuzzy, cloudy, hisses and purrs, layers of white noise the origin of which I usually haven't a clue. Then there are the environmental sounds. Sometimes they hang around, sometimes they are carefully implanted into the composition, like the second or two of a train passing over loose sleepers that is suddenly pitched against a rapidly tapped metallic chime late in Side A. In his liner notes, Kahn mentions that the inspiration for this album could be found in his duo album Vista that he made with Asher in 2008. For that album he had worked with steel railings outdoors, and having enjoyed the experience he set out to record similar sounds again. Certainly much of the feel of Vista can also be heard here in that the sounds coalesce into clouds of highly detailed white noise, dense and at their height hard to penetrate, but with the fizzing surface layers masking the very simple percussive structures below. Where On Metal Shore differs from that earlier collaboration is in the way the layers are often stripped back, sometimes gradually, sometimes with sudden cuts away from one set of recordings to another, so revealing the elements, often very simplistically beautiful parts underneath. The occasional recognition of other, external, often natural elements in the midst of everything also adds another, very welcome element again.
I wrote somewhere recently that I have enjoyed Jason Kahn's last few releases a great deal, and that, while he has appeared on a lot of CDs and I have enjoyed his work for more than a decade now he seems to have really found a degree of musical craftsmanship and a sense of clarity to his recent work that gives it an emotional, direct quality to it that I may not have sensed so easily before. On Metal Shore is up their with his fine solo album Vanishing Point for me as his best work yet. It has a physicality to it that really grabs you, a tendency to build to obvious high points but in a way that still feels exciting, similar to how AMM performances did for so many years. I works particularly well with the volume turned up high so that the layered reverberations seem to rattle about the room and the lapping water and twittering birds seem to appear in the space around you. This is a fine piece of work then, a record that makes me very glad to have bought a turntable again in 2011 and one I heartily recommend. It also comes in a lovely hand painted cover on thick grey card that just makes me mourn the loss of Kahn's Cut label. Hopefully there will be more like this soon.
>Richard Pinnell, The Watchful Ear, 1.2012

Kahn made On Metal Shore alone, recording metal pipes, ladders, water tanks, and siding, then playing the sounds through various other metal objects in his studio. He then layered this material with environmental sounds using a computer. The effect is somewhat like a collage of slowed-down recordings of Harry Bertoia sculptures with commentary by the crickets and birds he disturbed while playing. This music is well matched to the vinyl medium; the produce of physical processes, it gets a final frisson from the palpability of playback. Fetishizing aside, its two side-long pieces are rich and often gorgeous expositions of unbound sound.
>Bill Meyer, Tokafi, 4.2012

L'expression populaire dit qu'il faut se méfier de l'eau qui dort ; la prudence ferroviaire, qu'un train peut en cacher un autre. Au petit matin, Jason Kahn déroute une machine à vapeur -- qu'il a repérée où -- et l'aiguille sur la surface du lac de Zürich. En étoffant avec patience un premier coup léger, Kahn rappelle d'abord Fritz Hauser. Et puis un parasite s'immisce dans sa démonstration : c'est le premier son de la locomotive. Les suivants seront bruits de bielle-manivelles et de rails, sifflements et sirène. Sur l'eau du lac, le percussionniste fait aussi se refléter des éléments de constructions métalliques -- de pont, notamment. Leur résistance est persistance, à en croire la seconde face : là, les coups réguliers sont plus graves, sourds voire distanciés, et les parasites contrits. Comme si les rails avaient gardé au chaud le souvenir du passage du monstre fabuleux et le révélaient au fur et à mesure qu'elles disparaissent sous la surface. Le lac a maintenant recouvré sa quiétude.
>Guillaume Belhomme, Le son du grisli, 2.2012

As we've mentioned before, American ex-pat and former hardcore drummer Jason Kahn made a radical shift away from the SST punk style jams he was kicking out during the '80s toward an avant-drone-noise-improv type of career that has taken him to Zurich, Switzerland. Yeah, it is a career for him, but the price one has to pay for having a sound-art career is a constant tour / exhibition schedule. Rock'n'roll may have its fortune seekers, but a steady paycheck through sound-art? Not very likely. Yet, Kahn has done it; and done it by producing work that is incredibly refined through his own take on electro-acoustic strategies, modular synth exploration, holy minimalist composition, and an occasional percussion flourish in ghostly deference to his former life as the drummer for Leaving Trains. With all of the touring and exhibitions (seriously, his schedule is fucking insane!), solo releases from Jason Kahn can be fleeting (although he's very prolific with his collaborative contributions). So, this new production from Kahn is something that could be celebrated simply because the man somehow found the time to get this out in the world; but that would be selling it short... as On Metal Shores is a brilliant piece of shimmering, gasping minimalism that glides out of acoustically-sourced drone reminiscent of Andrew Chalk and Organum, the metallurgically organic swells of Alan Lamb's wire recordings, and the graceful minimalism of Eliane Radigue and Roland Kayn. Kahn writes at great length in the liner notes about some of the situations for the source recordings, including the nice image of Jason Kahn tapping on a resonant hand-railing near Lake Zurich as local birds would congregate and take off depending on the volume of Kahn's rhythm-n-drone. These elements along with long-thin-wire instruments attached to transducers, the thrum of giant water tanks, drainage pipe raspings, and much more get worked into Kahn's shifting drones that accrete into swollen crescendos of complex shimmered noise and harmonic interplay. This stunner of an album is limited to 250 copies, hand numbered, and hand-painted.
>Jim Haynes, Aquarius Records, 3.2012