Review: Jason Kahn - Songline

Jason Kahn - SonglineI imagine Kahn curled up at the bottom of a well. Leg broken from a long fall, bone jutting out the skin. He emits a series of strained whines; suppressed agony seeping out of his mouth like air from a punctured tyre. Each long groan is more insular and helpless than the last. Initially, they sound like genuine probes for assistance from the outside world, fired by the energy of optimism and promise. As each long vowel collapses into an extended, reverberant decay, Kahn starts to turn dejectedly inward – cuddling his own echo, reacting to his phantom reflection, his tone swooping gradually downward like a sink unplugged.

All four of these pieces are given 20 minutes to unfold. Each is essentially the continuous repetition of a single vocal gesture. On side three, a raspberry of spittle and flappy tongue seems to deflate his entire face bit by bit. I wonder if Kahn’s perception of his own voice mutates over time. Does his attention intensify upon individual details, just as it does for me? The way in which air whistles through the gap between two teeth? The gradual onset of dehydration that brings increasing coarseness to his spew of noise? The falsetto overtones that slip into the frame as his voice box buckles under the demand of endurance? The exercise begins to feel nihilistic. Meaningless. Sound for its own sake; not even for its originator’s sake. Kahn emits his sound because he always has, in lieu of anything purposeful to do. It’s beautiful and stubborn; an excavation of primal instinct, shedding connotation until only vibration is left.