Title: Fog Sequences
Artist: K. M. Krebs
Release Date: 2006 Oct 10
Genre: Ambient Noise
License: CC BY
Label: Treetrunk Records
This was one of the first recordings of ambient drone / noise works that really opened my ears to the concept. It was, at first, a shock to my system. I had only heard things that were more formalized synthesis pieces before. Works from artists like Karlheinz Stockhausen, Ianis Xenakis, and Morton Subotnick. It hadn’t occurred to me there were artists outside the formalized schools of composition and experimentation exploring techniques of synthesis and distortion. Now it’s time to look in retro fog with Kevin Krebs to understand what makes this work exceptional.
In Retro Fog With Kevin Krebs
Fog Sequences is a series of generative compositions based on ideas Kevin Krebs had after viewing a series of photographs at the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Korea. Kevin used the output from an FM drone generator run through unpredictable distortion effects as the basis for these compositions.
The resulting compositions are grouped into two suites and a standalone composition.
This suite of three compositions form the main body of this work. It opens with a long fade in of a drone with shifting tones and an almost arpeggio type of sounds swirling around at the edges of the soundscape. A few synthesized tones intermingle with the drone throughout the work fading in and out. It’s like peering into a deep fog, and thinking there are emerging figures of people approaching you, only when they reach you the dissolve back into the fog.
The second part of White Leaves is more static, and yet shifting around you. Sounds pan from side to side, ethereal, disconnected and disjointed. It’s almost a mirage of the undefinable in a static field of gray.
The final section of White Leaves is more fluid. Electronic shimmering sounds fade in and wash around you. The fog has almost become a mist or a drizzle around you. It’s almost like at any moment the fog will turn into a river around you, and you will be thrown from side to side as it pulls you along some indeterminate path.
The Distance Between
This two-part composition begins by toying with your perception of sonic distance. Sounds that at first seem very far away are suddenly in your head. They are almost tangible and irritating. It’s a dysphoric, disorienting experience, your sense of depth perception is lost in the mists surrounding you.
The second part of this composition has a pulse and rhythm buried in its structure. It’s almost indistinct from the noises fluttering around you, and yet it is clearly there. it becomes very intense, almost physical. You feel like you want to reach out and touch it, but as you do it changes, dissolves and moves away, replaced by more static sounds.
The whole experience is disorienting as you cannot tell what is close, and what is far away. The distance between the layers of the sounds are constantly shifting and challenging your perception of the world around you.
Autumn Stars, Slightly Brighter
The final piece on this release starts very peacefully. A simple ringing drone with only slight distortion. Several overtone drones are added, and grow in shimmering brightness as the distortion grows around them. A very slow sequence of haunting tones emerges in the background repeating slowly over and over.
A low mechanical sound fills out the field within this piece. It adds another layer of depth and serves to counterpoint the shimmering, sliding tones of light that are all around. It’s like looking at the stars through a mist from the roof of a manufacturing plant.
This was a shock of a work to listen to when I first heard it. I had been trolling around some of the netlabels for a while and had heard all sorts of IDM and electronic music, some pop stuff, and things that I generally associated with non-academic music. This work hit me from an angle that I hadn’t been expecting. It demanded my attention, and it took an approach that I had only been familiar with when I was in college.
At first I didn’t understand what I was listening to. It just seemed to be a series of static, gray drone sounds with a lot of distortion. It wasn’t until I listened to it with headphones that I started to perceive what happening in the work. It finally took a level of sensory deprivation to really immerse myself in the work and understand the level of mastery contained within it. (In this case, it was necessary to listen to this work with headphones, in a totally dark room. Only then did all of the layers of each composition come out.)
It’s difficult to describe the experience of listening to this work. It is based on the concept of the challenges to the senses of being surrounded by fog. Trying to tease out the changes in emotion, alertness of the mind, sudden jarring effects of emerging sounds, and changes in perception is something that you can’t put your finger on.
This work is very much like fog. You know it’s around you. It’s constantly shifting, changing and challenging your perception. And, every time you experience it it’s completely different and yet eerily similar.