Published Mar 17, 2014Kassel Jaeger has come up with an intriguing premise: the 25-minute long "Toxic Cosmopolitanism" is knit together from samples of instruments such as balafon, tremolo, gnbri, gee, Tibetan gongs and pan flutes, but done in such a way as to denude them of any obvious sonic signifiers that would suggest cultural associations to the listener. In doing so, Jaeger deservedly questions whether fourth world sonic melanges are actually more destructive, or toxic, to the source material.
The result is inconclusive. If you've heard anything on Editions Mego, Toxic Cosmopolitanism's long-form journey through slow oscillations, gradually mutating sounds and scratchy textures will not be unfamiliar. In a sense, these sound sources have been successfully de-exoticized; the listener would just as easily believe this music was built from samples of crumpled up paper, houseflies or any number of mundane objects sliced and diced in programs like Ableton. The musical result is not unpleasant, and even absorbing as each new sound cluster emerges and transitions to a new phase.
The four offshoots of the main source are pleasing sketches (particularly "Sunlight") but do not affect the overall inscrutability of this work. On the whole, Jaeger's point is taken, but it's just academic. By blunting the unique sonic elements of his sources, this disc sounds almost anonymous, despite its compositional merit. (Editions Mego)