Kim Koschka - "Bella Maniera" (Psychotropic Records 2000, psychotropic 2002)
Demolition Squad - "Hit It" (Psychotropic Records 2000, psychotropic 2001)

From Aural Innovations #17 (September 2001)

Kim Koschka is the mastermind behind these two releases that closely parallel each other. Her Bella Maniera CD is the first in an upcoming series that attempts to bring the academic understanding of Manierism into a more popular musical setting. The term, she explains, "is an art style of 'unrest and strain', 'technique and artifice', 'ambiguity and insanity', 'fantasy and melancholy'." Intellectual considerations aside, the music is explosive and dramatic. Imagine 20th century orchestral discord alongside drum & bass, ambient electronica, and tribal rhythms. Now imagine them all churning simultaneously, working towards the same goal. The result is a swirling mass of sounds that may seem chaotic, but are in fact perfectly arranged. The vast variety of samples and tones fly across the soundscape, creating a paradox that I can only describe as a random pattern.

"Allegro Vivace" kicks the CD off with a bombastic style that Kim describes as "drum n bass for grand orchestra." This track is easily the best. Everyone I've played it for has been captivated regardless of their musical tastes. It is by far the most explosive track on the CD and the one most suited to draw a broad audience to her experiment in Manierism. The remaining tracks are not quite as enthralling, but that's not to say the quality is any less. They require more patience and take a slower approach towards exploring the tensions that Kim talks about. Electronic beats appear in every track to lay a foundation for the various ambient, discordant, and tribal rhythms that follow. Sometimes will use these one at a time or in combination. For example, there are a couple of sections of distinctly tribal sets executed with synthesizers.

The Demolition Squad CD takes a slightly less accessible approach, but it is in essence part of the same musical agenda begun in her solo project CD. The drum pulse sets the stage once again for musical exploration. Fellow musician Jim Goetsch imports a spacey jazz influence that results in a laid-back style of music. Soft saxophone and piano touches temper Kim's screeching string arrangements in "Looking Out For Number One." The space influence is definitely stronger on these tracks. I was quite impressed with the composer's ability to combine inhuman discordances with mellow bird-like synth drones that produce soothing calmness and anxiety all at once. Demolition Squad works well as either background sounds or an engaging style of music that I'd call orchestrated drum-n-space.

For more information you can visit
Contact via snail mail c/o Psychotropic Records; 11170 Aqua Vista ST #214; Studio City, CA 91602.

Reviewed by Anish Bhatia

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