After many years spent probing the edges of tranceful resonance, Jason Kahn’s more recent releases – starting from 2015’s Songline – have introduced us to a man progressively willing to disclose his undressed interiority via recordings that use uninhibited vocalization as a primary means. Lining Out is a vinyl album for voice and drum set whose brutal truthfulness might scare those who prefer the insincerely assuaging traits of self-exploration.
Whatever the acoustic source Kahn selects to merge his utterances with, he persuades a responsive listener about the near-perfection of that coupling, where “perfection” translates as a snapshot of a human being who is getting closer to the quaking bowels of aliveness. The drums are mostly played with the hands, the softened tone of the skins resounding quite intensely. When the choice is made to employ the jangling/rattling characteristics of other percussive constituents, there’s no particular distress.
What’s really remarkable is Kahn’s awareness and managing of the pulsating parallelisms defining one’s residual vitality. This is rather uncommon in a world that privileges pre-digested banality to “facilitate” a so-called equality. Ordinary students of perpetual nonsense cannot translate the simultaneousness of, say, heartbeat, breathing and walking as a polyrhythm. However, the brain of a committed improviser is capable of catching intrinsic connections by instinct, without an actual need of sharing the revelations with egos that will inevitably diminish their value by way of intellectual inanity. The explanation is the event, every additional word simply increasing the mental disorder of someone not destined to understand in the first place.
The voice itself – the original instrument, as Joan LaBarbara would have it – scavenges across expressive grounds that have more to do with piercing holes in one’s guts than commonly intended timbral research. Kahn is definitely not looking for refinement, keeping himself as distant from postcard shamanism and polished vacuity as possible. We discern the “vocal cords-to-skull” vibrational transitions while establishing a silent communion with the artist; the urgency of an atavic despair demanding to be expelled from within is clearly sensed. The arrogant hollowness of an inexpressive intellect ultimately destroyed, the meaningful link is at last visible for the stronger.