Tim Kuhl – 1982 (2015)

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Drummer and composer Tim Kuhl had been steadily releasing product on virtually an annual basis under his own name through 2012’s St. Helena, followed by a pause in activity. The annexation of his rock band Invisible Familiars into a new, spiffier version of Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl’s Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger may have had something to do with that. The avant-psychedelic rock band has been going non-stop since last year’s trippy but highly imaginative Midnight Sun (a new EP GOASTT Stories dropped just last month). In between, the Invisible Familiars issued their own album, Disturbing Wildlife.

Ultimately, though, this high-profile activity wasn’t going to stop Tim Kuhl from pursuing his own personal artistry. Thanks to the wonders of modern, on-the-go technology (called an “iPad”) and finishing touches applied with the help of NYC engineer/producer Joshua Valleau, Kuhl managed to eke out a record that will be widely available June 30. Continuing in a direction charted by St. Helena but doing so more economically, Tim Kuhl the drummer is increasingly using his solo career to showcase Tim Kuhl the sound architect.

Thus, 1982 (from Flying Moonlight Records) is a clean break from the jazz areas he’s come from — a contemporary music record — but certainly just as distant as jazz from another contemporary music record named after a year seven years later.

That’s because while Tim Kuhl might construct straightforward, even repetitive melodies, he’s also building moods around them. The airy, astral float of “First Light,” the pulsing electronica of “Timelessness Highway,” the modern dirge of “1982” or the concluding pillowy, Euro electro-pop of “Wave (of Dreams)”…all of these are about as straightforward and elemental as Kuhl has ever gotten but evoke clearly defined vibes.

In between these comforting songs, Kuhl fills the middle of the album with tracks that offers peeks into his experimental side, pulling listeners outside the comfortable place where the first three tracks led them. The serenity of “White (k)Night” is disrupted by the unsettling whispers and coos of Deerhoof’s Satomi Matsuzaki. Other collaborations include one with the poet Geoffrey Bankowski (“Drive”), whose spoken word recital gets increasingly stomped on by a metal guitar and “Invisible Power,” performed with Grey McMurray, is dominated by the layered sounds of human anguish played out over an ascending/descending piano motif.

1982 is alternately soothing and moderately disquieting, explicitly simple but implicitly a little bit complex. You get the feeling that Tim Kuhl is still driving toward a certain artistic destination but the stops he’s made along the way have all been intriguing, and this one is no exception.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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