John Duncan - Klaar LP
Label: Black Truffle
Sonic provocateur John Duncan has made a career through leaps into the unknown. During the heyday of Los Angeles performance art (i.e. Chris Burden, Paul McCarthey, etc.), Duncan conceived of a number of projects that deliberately antagonized his audience through perceived violence and shattered taboos. At the same time, he began exploring the empty channels on shortwave radio where unsettling noise, silence and crackle could propagate. He was particularly intrigued by the psychological colorings of the sounds that often reflected dread, anxiety and paranoia - themes that were commonplace in his performance pieces.
Duncan's first works were published in conjunction with the Los Angeles Free Music Society, with whom he performed on occasion in various ensembles. His work began to really blossom upon a decision around 1981 to leave America for Japan, a place where he knew no one and where he knew nothing of the language. His work with radio began in earnest both as a source material and as a platform for pirate radio broadcasts. By the end of the decade, he relocated once again, this time to Amsterdam to begin a fruitful series of collaborations with Andrew McKenzie (a.k.a. The Hafler Trio). Shortwave radio was still prominent, with his compositions becoming more complex and nuanced.
Klaar was first published on the Australian imprint Extreme in 1990. The aforementioned McKenzie contributes various field recordings, with Duncan lacing those amidst long-form collages of blank static, distant signals detuned into smeared vibration and swells of electric noise. The relative calm of the album's proceedings belie the implied threat within Klaar. Duncan actively seeks to reflect a psychic, subliminal violence within society through the unintended artifacts of commonplace technologies. Here, the existentially nihilist agenda is to spook through the haunted radio. Klaar, along with much of his catalogue that spans three decades, remains a remarkable work of spectral electro-acoustics.
And for the first time, Klaar is pressed on vinyl. Highest recommendation.