Kangding Ray: Pruitt Igoe

David Letellier, aka Kangding Ray, is preparing to turn your solar system’s central star into a black hole with his upcoming LP full of crushingly heavy, sinister bass machinations and techno-funk grooves. He is circling the outer reaches of your galaxy like a musical Galactus, forever in search of sustenance in nuclear fusion. Once he has dined on the heaviest of heavies, he will transform them into hip- and head-shaking grooves. And for those of us already familiar with his craftwork, he is teasing us with a glimpse into the next album with this EP release, Pruitt Igoe.

Housed in a mesmerizing, hypnotically deep blue sleeve, this 45 rpm 12-inch is an aesthetic pleasure all around: design, packaging, thickness of vinyl, the reserved outward nature betraying the inner demons and the music itself.

On the A Side, “Pruitt Igoe (rise)” is a pure moment of joyous energy encased in the most ominous of soundscapes. Peripheral rhythm elements transport the mind inside a giant peppermill; it grinds and twists with a certain conclusion of doom, or at least fissure. The splintered, slightly obscured vocal samples of the Street Singers of Uttar Pradesh in India are swerved and manipulated in a way that you end up listening to their schizophrenic twins caught in some sort of sonic mirror. It simultaneously displays great childhood horror and the untethered joy of that time of life. I honestly wouldn’t mind a 40 minute DJ set comprised of just this track. Seriously. The Alva Noto ‘remodel’ really pushes those vocal samples to the forefront while smothering them in a watery glaze of re-editing and also slows the tempo, stepping out of the more danceable original and into a David Fincher film soundtrack (calling the Dust Brothers!).

“Pruitt Igoe (fall)” opens the B Side. This is a much more straight ahead Dubstep approach to the rhythm and the synthesizer punches sound like ghosts beating on the digital replicants of steel drums. Yet, the mumbling, gurgling bass tones are still there from the A Side, giving this little release more continuity than most short EPs/Singles. I certainly hope that both of these tracks appear on the upcoming album. And unless you weren’t aware, Ben Frost drops by to crush, mutilate and obliterate a remix for this track. With bass kicks this heavy, Frost is certainly paying homage to Kangding Ray’s signature style, but is also treading in the waters of Deru. The keenest trick in Frost’s little bag, though? Some insane stonerriffic stereo panning manipulations where a backing track (or so it seems) swirls around behind you and then comes kicking through a door in your left ear and is now front and center (this occurs at 0:37 in the song, so be alert!). That is imaginative production folks! Unfortunately, my words, while great, cannot serve to ever properly capture the magic of that moment, so you’ll just have to get your own damn copy of this and plug in.

One more thing. I know that Letellier is fond of his music standing as an abstract political statement (his words, even, maybe), so it seemed only prudent to mention that this EP is named after one of if not the largest housing projects ever built in the United States. Comprised of several high-rise apartment complexes, Pruitt-Igoe was practically visible from space, at least, that is, if the satellite were positioned over St. Louis before 1972 when it was demolished. Here’s a picture, from a helicopter, not space you dummy!! As for the political statement? I think y’all can deduce that, since housing projects bring up many issues of race and class in America. If you can’t figure that out? You’re a fucking white, male Republican.

Score: 9/10

BTW, here’s my review of Ray’s last album, Automne Fold.

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