James Krivchenia (b. Minnesota, 1988) is a many-armed sculptor of music. Known primarily for his roles in Big Thief (as drummer and producer), Mega Bog (as longtime engineer, co-producer and percussionist) and his various other groups and session work (ranging
from the experimental improvisation of Causings to the likes of Taylor Swift) Krivchenia has been quietly building strange musical worlds in parallel with his own experimental records. Krivchenia’s solo works are tableaus of his conceptual particle colliders: interlocking idea and process, of determinism and chance, of abstraction and concreteness.
His previous solo works, You’re Useless, I Love You (Reading Group, 2016), No Comment (Left Door Tapes, 2018), and A New Found Relaxation (House Arrest, 2020) show an increasing clarity of intentional framing while never sacrificing the material joy of making music. You’re Useless decoded the pop palate through a mutation of the sounds for a strangely unsettling sugar rush; No Comment worked through heavier concepts, culling from the audio of body camera footage of gun skirmishes from wars around the world uploaded to the internet; and Relaxation was composed from over hundreds of tiny fragments of “internet spa radio” processed through Krivchenia’s magic box of sonic transformations.
Blood Karaoke has perhaps the widest palette of any of Krivchenia’s work to date. Driving through a near-constant barrage of sound and information, Blood passes through zones of hardcore techno, poptimistic kitsch cruisers, glitched out quasi-grooves, and deeply weird YouTube ambience. Composed mostly from hundreds of tiny samples of unwatched YouTube videos found through random online generators (think Microsoft Office PowerPoint presentations, video game walkthroughs, old local news clips, etc), mangled midi (fed into Krivchenia’s rig of synthesizers and pedals) and then meticulously layered and collaged, Blood often sounds like an experiment in accepting the disparate sounds and feelings of our world, online and otherwise, and trying to find the poetry contained within the chaos.
Bold combinations abound and the result ends up being a baffling translation. As if an alien were composing a mixtape as a misguided offering of understanding to the humans of 2022. The laughter it provokes is as much an effect of the juxtapositions of its musical worlds as from the strangely uncanny seriousness of AI-generated poetry––we laugh
because we’re not sure what’s real. The driving, skittering pulse, the crooked arrow through time, at least, seems real. Beyond that, much of the most memorable fused signifiers flash up and scatter before they can be fully grasped or located. A private dance record appropriate to the chaotic, stimulant, glorious weirdness of the world.
released April 15, 2022
music, mixing, and mastering by James Krivchenia.
artwork by Peter Nichols
released as rg22 by Reading Group, www.readinggroup.co April 2022.
This reminds me of the Original Harmony Ridge Creekdippers, which is where I hope it might lead some yet to experience the free-spirited authenticity of those refugees from the big smoke.
Big Thief sound more contemporary than the loose country-folk of the Creekdippers, but IMO it's Big Thief's countrified tunes that give this album it's cohesion. I hope they do travel further along this road and record America's next great album. They have the talent. tideracer