Album Review: No Square Klang – Clive Klang (ENI Records)

Recognised as perhaps the world’s greatest living proponent of the triangle, Klang has revolutionised this three-sided instrument. It is no surprise that his genius is in constant demand across the globe from recitals to bar mitzvahs, children’s parties to symphony orchestras, but he is undoubtedly best-loved – Christmas choral backup notwithstanding – for his extraordinary solo performances.

Legendary blues guitarist Cloudy Waters once intoned that

“…[Klang] transcends genre, defies description, belittles convention, humbles himself before this instrument of peace and majesty.”

Bowie described the unique style of the New Yorker as one that “thoroughly degrades the simple skeleton of stainless steel”. Esoteric wizard of wind chimes Gary Ratchett has previously commented that

“Clive’s brilliance will never be truly appreciated in our lifetime nor the next. All we can do is act as custodians of his unbearably beautiful legacy to mankind’s future generations.”

High praise indeed from the High Priest, a man who has himself been compared to Beethoven and Johnny Logan.

Klang’s repertoire – showcased in past work including the infamously-subversive Boys Noise Boys Bang Klang and his platinum (-coloured, not -selling) eponymous work – encompasses the entire field of music: from ancient songs and chants via medieval polyphony to modern music, including freestyle jazz, hip-hop and interpretative monophonic dubstep clang, a genre widely regarded as one both invented and later revolutionised by him.

Once more, he takes us on a journey into unchartered territory with No Square Klang. The entire album, at a little over five days, is the behemoth we have come to expect from this most consummate of performers. The stark arrangement (this album was produced solely by Klang without Tony Spankman) works to most telling effect on the hidden title track, where the silences between the notes are as sublimely crafted as the notes themselves.

Casual fans may be surprised to see Spankman’s name missing from the credits: the legendary producer (also credited with co-writing titles on Smack Bang Klang and Just a Man and His Klangle) publicly fell out with the artist over Klang’s now-famous comment in an interview with this reviewer about the “distorted, over-worked and over-produced” sounds on the concept album Klangity Klangy Klang Klang. Klang Klang. Klang.

Some may see this hauntingly spare, at times violently empty, production as a vindication of Klang’s decision, and as ever, the melody itself never disappoints.


The standout track is of course Yoga Sounds – Part I, which had become (even before being officially released) one of the most sampled melodies of the digital age. But that is not to ignore the first track, with Klang’s signature sound reinvigorating an old Catholic favourite, nor to gloss over the superb timing of 24 Hours Alone, a piece that rewards repeated listening: indeed, on this reviewer’s fifth listen, one can clearly discern a single cough, at about ten minutes before the sixth hour, a knowing nod to one of Klang’s major influences, the Armenian instrumentalist Lieber Yatzvit. A personal favourite for this listener was the final track, Sturgeon on an Escalator, which, in Klang’s inimitable fashion, somehow yields richly different tones from the monotonic instrument; at times vivid and quick, then drawn and sombre, taking us on a journey, with that fish, through technology and ascendancy. This track alone makes the album a must-have.

In time, this album will surely be identified as the one that finally brought Klang’s genius to the attention of the common music fan, which is not to ignore some minor faults, particularly in the complex and layered Panpipes Revisited: at least to this humble reviewer, the original Panpipes for Triangle, with Spankman’s production and Klang’s classic Cb triangle, sounded more mellifluous, richer somehow. But that, in a sense, sums up Klang: never content to rest on his laurels, ever-searching for the means to capture for us, the listeners, the wonder of the ‘steely-sided triangle’, as he has himself termed it, with typically humble self-deprecation. Klang is a poet with one monotonal sound but speaking a language beyond time, beyond words, almost beyond sound. If there’s one album you buy this year, it should be this one.

No Square Klang includes:

  1. Reworking of the Angelus (For Single Triangle)
  2. The Clock Chimes
  3. 24 Hours Alone
  4. The Anvil Striker
  5. Hitting (Missing) the Moving Metal Yoke
  6. Yoga Sounds – Part I
  7. Meditation on Meditation
  8. Fading Metallic Sound
  9. Yoga Sounds – Part II
  10. Panpipes Revisited (for Triangle)
  11. Is That All, Doorbell?
  12. Sturgeon on an Escalator

The download album also contains a bonus: a live in-studio video recording of Hitting (Missing) the Moving Metal Yoke, his chart-topping hit (Percussion-only Charts, Solo Instrument, Ecuador*). Limited-edition triangular CD and vinyl available from all good record stores.

* Based on record label’s projected sales estimate – not officially verified.

Rated: 5/5.

Albums of the Year.

RM

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