Kalle Kalima & K-18 – Out to Lynch – TUM Records TUM CD 030, 64:34 ***1/2:
(Kalle Kalima – electric guitar, percussion; Mikko Innanen – alto and baritone saxophone, flute, percussion; Veli Kujala – quarter-tone accordion, percussion; Teppo Hauta-aho – double bass, percussion, doors)
David Lynch’s work in photography, painting, cinema, television, various Internet programs and music conceptions frequently uses surreal imagery and imagistic soundscapes which often evoke a dream-like or nightmare-like quality. Finnish-born and Berlin-based guitarist Kalle Kalima and his quartet, K-18, fashion music of a similar nature: dissonant, methodically improvised, abstract and jarring; but also emotive, brooding and darkly intimate. It is inevitable Kalima would turn to Lynch for inspiration: the 64-minute, 12-track, punningly titled Out to Lynch features anachronistic material kindled by Kalima’s thoughts and feelings on Lynch’s visual oeuvre. These unreservedly unconventional pieces are not recreations of Lynch soundtracks, nor interpretations of Lynch’s music endeavors. This is all-original music (ten cuts by Kalima and two group efforts) based on recollections and ideas in Kalima’s head: memories and impressions from viewing Lynch’s movie and TV creations. In this regard, Out to Lynch logically follows in the footprints of Kalle Kalima and K-18’s debut, Some Kubricks of Blood (2009), which was stimulated by Stanley Kubrick’s singularly distinctive filmmaking
The quartet employs an atypical configuration which complements the nonplussed music. Kalima recurrently applies slashing guitar, Mikko Innanen supplies a sweeping tone on alto and baritone sax (he also utilizes flute and percussion), Veli Kujala plays a unique quarter-tone accordion (and also slips in percussion) and the foundation is laid by Teppo Hauta-aho’s doublebass (he also provides percussive assistance). There are no drums, which gives the unrestricted tracks a seemingly rudderless reference, which enhances, rather than detracts. The foursome commence with violence: “BOB” (conceived as a portrait of the Twin Peaks villain) opens with Kalima’s gashing guitar, and then changes to a microtonal jazz theme: listeners can hear how Kujala’s accordion can produce microtonal intervals, something traditional accordions would find difficult. While there is a motif in “BOB,” the unhindered sax and guitar establish a jagged equilibrium matched by Kujala’s kaleidoscopic accordion and Hauta-aho’s variegated bass. “Laura Palmer” has a mysterious mannerism. A ghostly edge permeates through the slowly revolving waltz, which was developed as an audio embodiment of the Twin Peaks homicide victim. There are slices of aggression which suddenly erupt, but primarily this is a quieter construction which emphasizes empathy. One of the shorter numbers, “Agent Cooper,” is both surreal and droll, an accurate illustration of the Twin Peaks protagonist, who has a quirky sense of humor, and loves cherry pie and a “damn fine cup of coffee.”
There are also traces of internal and externalized fury which flit through “Lula Pace Fortune,” one of two compositions which reimagine characters from Lynch’s unruly road picture, Wild at Heart (1990). Kalima’s tune transforms from minimalistic to an overflow of sound, and closes with pinpointed percussion, breathy sax and backdropped guitar. “Sailor,” which focuses on the film’s anti-hero, has an off-the-cuff sincerity accentuated by several duet sections which consciously reflect the passion between the Laura Dern and Nicholas Cage characters in Wild at Heart.
Other notable tracks include the aptly orthodox “Alvin Straight,” an unobtrusive item which alludes to the lead role in Lynch’s most down-to-earth motion picture, The Straight Story (1999). Here, the quartet progresses via a ballad-like structure heightened by Hauta-aho’s absorbing arco bass and Kujala’s affecting accordion, underpinned by Kalima’s discreet guitar and Innanen’s circumspect sax. The complex but integrated “The Mystery Man,” a rendering of the cryptic person depicted by Robert Blake in Lost Highway (1997), skims from notated sections to all-for-one segments where each instrument vies for space at the same time: despite some cacophonous moments, there is a dominant theme which reinforces Kalima’s arrangement. The CD concludes with another forceful personality sketch, “Frank Booth,” prompted by the Dennis Hopper villian from Blue Velvet (1986). The piece modulates from discord to unsettling tenderness, akin to Booth’s mental variations. Out to Lynch should not be confused as a tribute or a representation of Lynch’s efforts: for example, those who may want to hear redesigned refurbishments of Angelo Badalamenti’s or Trent Reznor’s soundtracks for Lynch should stay clear of Out to Lynch. However, those who appreciate European avant-garde, free jazz, and odd contrasts and textures should take a listen.
TrackList: BOB; The Elephant Man; Mulholland Drive; Laura Palmer; Eraserhead; Lula Pace Fortune; Alvin Straight; The Mystery Man; Agent Cooper; Sailor; The Man from Another Place; Frank Booth.
A Texas singer-songwriter’s legend lives on with this journey of personal discovery and anecdotal cleverness.