I knew Slobodan Kajkut as the man running the imprint that published Phill Niblock’s gorgeous Rhymes With Water in 2017. Subsequently, I learned that he himself is a composer; and, judging from Darkroom, a thought-provoking one.
It’s a score for clarinet (Dejan Trkulja), vibraphone (Christian Pollheimer) and sampler plus programming (Kajkut). The first thing heard is a muffled urban whoosh; nebulous, but sufficiently vibrant to let us intuit an undisclosed congenital complexity. This is sustained until a skeletal percussive design enters the scene. After several minutes characterized by this puzzling backdrop, the melodic materials begin to show up in peculiar fashion. When not emitting isolated pitches, both the vibes (also bowed) and the reeds remain confined to intervals that never seem to leave the unison-to-semitone range.
The instruments initiate a somewhat circular s-l-o-w parallelism, resonating according to the eternal laws of upper partial contiguity. The emblematic inner quivering that rubs the auricular membranes and clogs the skull is achieved via a larger-than-usual amount of pitch mobility. A measure of dynamic stasis is reached around the 35th minute, prior to an unexpected reprise of the tortoise-like microtonal ballet. The latter is ultimately left suspended, the ultimate question mark as the “remote traffic” echoes of the piece’s outset reappear.
Think of a reductionist alien threnody carried on for a good while. Kajkut is not afraid of stressing the concept, inviting us to accept the consequences of a forsaken repetitiveness. In my case this translated as an initial perplexity, soon replaced by the will to replicate the listening process; sure enough, the authenticity emerged at the third or fourth attempt. It goes without saying that a quiet room – even if it’s not dark – will facilitate the absorption of this rather impenetrable, yet effective music.