• christian kiefer Czar Nicholas Is Dead (CD, £3.50)

    label: camera obscura

    Some ideas are difficult to dispense with. Were you to ask Christian Kiefer why he fixated on Russia, and on a particularly grisly period in the countrys history, he would probably be unable to answer. The end result of that interest is "Czar Nicholas Is Dead", a soundtrack to a tundra wasteland filled with lonely soldiers, ornate towers crumbling into ruin, and desolate, blood-soaked snowscapes. An essentially ambient project with minimal instrumentation, "Czar Nicholas Is Dead" captures Russia as a fever dream, a strange and disorienting place that lay on no map, but rather resides entirely in the authors imagination. His Ph.D. work at the University of California at Davis explores the intersection of history and the arts (particularly literature) and "Czar Nicholas Is Dead" falls perfectly within his primary field of interest, even if the geographical location has shifted off the North American continent. For research, Kiefer turned to thick volumes on the assassination of the Romanoff family, the tradition of Russian folk music, and to early Russian silent film. Kiefer brought in a handful of his favorite musicians and asked them to improvise with him live in the studio with a handful of simple instructions. The material was then worked over further in the studio, edited, rearranged, and produced, often with additional parts being added or subtracted as the musical force of the album began to reveal itself. The end result is part collective improvisation on a conceptual and musical theme, and part constructed and composed musical work. Press for previous Kiefer releases: "A beautiful musical evocation of a page of Americana. Environmental recordings and electronics wrap up a slow-changing bed of loops consisting of simple folk guitar lines, banjo, accordion, and voices (both singing and reciting)." - All Music Guide on "Exodust" (Extreme Records 2002), "Christian Kiefer's music brings the listener directly in contact with a new sonic landscape. The atmosphere is crusty and old, hearkening back to a time when mine shafts dotted the forests. I grew up in the same part of the world and I am intimate with its shape. Kiefer captures it beautifully; his music is the real deal." - Terry Riley reviewing "Welcome to Hard Times".

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