Tim Kuhl – Sky Valley (2018)

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Tim Kuhl’s journey from a jazz drummer to a creator of experimental electronica rock is not a road much traveled, but follow his musical career and you know he doesn’t take the conventional route. It’s a career that’s landed him the drum chair in Sean Lennon’s wildly fantastical Ghost of the Saber Tooth Tiger (GOASTT) and even that gig didn’t keep him from being restless. Armed with an iPad and precious spare time, he fashioned 1982. My observation at the time that “Tim Kuhl the drummer is increasingly using his solo career to showcase Tim Kuhl the sound architect” also holds true for the 1982 successor Sky Valley.

Continuing with uncomplicated patterns, the intrigue is found in the ersatz contours, in the poetry and the almost-minimalist hypnotic pull. For some tracks, Kuhl mutates glass-smooth artificial textures into disquieting ones: The gossamer “Godlike” barrels toward a coarse ending, while “Half Remembered” is softly sung over a repeating, four-chord figure that sustains throughout the song but that fragile vocal turns into full-throated screams.

Except for “Half Remembered,” lyrics aren’t sung but recited in digitally altered voices: “Harmony In Repeat” suggests 80s synth pop using a vocoder with an ostinato that vaguely suggests Chicago’s “Colour My World,” and the seductive whisper on “Even Tears” is barely heard over the electro distortion. The riff from “Safe Place” is atypically a guitar one but the synth contours soon overcome it. “Sky Valley” is built around a simple bass figure and a resolute snare drum beat as a dark tale is told in a creepy, low voice.

Esoteric and just a little bit provocative, Sky Valley goes further along a unique path for Tim Kuhl. You can snag a download of Tim Kuhl’s Sky Valley from his Bandcamp page.

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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