'A New Found Relaxation': James Krivchenia shows us a new way to unwind with experimental electronic record
The Big Thief drummer's self-released album is a mishmash of found sounds and electronica all rolled into one soothing sonic landscape
Big Thief's James Krivchenia makes a return with his solo self-released record, 'A New Found Relaxation' out June 26.
James Krivchenia is a many-armed sculptor of music. The gentle but fierce wisdom of his drumming in Big Thief, the exceptionally loving chime-, drum-, and studio work with Mega Bog, the acoustic mirror framing the living collages of Causings. A through-line crossing this variegated musical landscape is his solo electronic work. Krivchenia’s solo works are the images that result from experiments with his conceptual particle colliders: an interlocking of idea and process, of determinism and chance, of abstraction and concreteness.
His previous solo work, 2018's 'No Comment', showed an increasing clarity of intentional framing while never sacrificing the material joy of making music. It worked through heavier concepts, culling from the audio of body camera footage of gun skirmishes from wars around the world uploaded to the internet, processing this material to bring the shadowy regions of our psyche to light as music, while making us aware of the pervasiveness of violence all around us. Despite coming out years ago, 'No Comment' is eerily relevant to our present reality, and it demonstrated Krivchenia's ability to channel what is happening in the world around him into his music.
Musically as well as thematically, 'A New Found Relaxation' is a refinement of Krivchenia’s method of transforming concrete found material into abstract crystals that still shine with their original glow. Realized in spring of 2019 in the tiny town in New Mexico where he was living at the time, 'A New Found Relaxation' is made from hundreds of tiny fragments of Internet spa radio, ASMR YouTube holes, field recordings and cast off muzak, processed through Krivchenia’s magic box of extreme outboard manipulations. This mass of fragments was then organized into an album-like frame that maintains this elusive balance between the surface calm of spa radio and the frenetic effects of the hyperreal processing. This balance illuminates the deep-structural mania of a globalized world ensnared in the Internet, the ever-quickening global whirl of information and capitalism, the tenuousness of our collective life in unprecedented isolation.
Speaking about the album Krivchenia states, "I put together this record from a cache of 500 small fragments of mangled, smeared, manipulated, and artifacted 'beauty', achieved through hours of knob twisting, droning, web surfing, field recording, and soaking. These were then meticulously assembled into a densely layered song/record format soaked in ear tickle and water. I wanted to make something that contained the seeds and quality of 'relaxation' but was fast-paced and hard to fully sink into....like these little glimpses of peace piled on top of each other... like the world as I experience it much of the time."
And while one might expect that to result in cacophony, Krivchenia combines these elements in a way that is oddly calming. The mania of his world is expertly balanced with the spirituality inherent in that same world. This record essentially makes a commentary on the world we find ourselves in, but it doesn't paint a desolate picture. On the contrary, it uses the calming, healing presence of the much-maligned new age/background music to its advantage, allowing the frantic energy that carries this calm to be lifted up and made audible within it. Still relaxing, sure, but a relaxation we might have to grow accustomed to: A newfound relaxation.