Konk Pack

Off Leash

Unquestionably living up to its onomatopoeic name with these crammed yet elastic pulsations, the Konk Pack trio proves once again with this concert performance why it is likely improv’s most accomplished electro-acoustic group. The trio consists of Köln-based synthesizer player Thomas Lehn, also a pianist; plus two Londoners: clarinetist/lap steel guitarist Tim Hodgkinson, a notated composer and co-founder of 1960s Art Rock band Henry Cow; plus percussionist Roger Turner, who over the years has collaborated with most British free musician from vocalist Phil Minton to saxophonist John Butcher. Most impressively, at no time during the throbbing, blistering textures that Konk Pack exposes on the single track here are empathy and enthusiasm sacrificed for electronically packaged formulae.

Proudly playing an analogue machine, Lehn’s staccato lines and spectral effects are as in-the-moment as Turner’s powerful ruffs and bounces. He also oscillates few vibrations and drones that couldn’t be created – albeit without unbroken timbre placement – by Hodgkinson using extended techniques on his instruments. Although the triggered sound envelopes and processed textures from the synthesizer may splutter and twitter like short-wave radio signals, the band itself operate with enough sweat and perceptivity as any first-rate acoustic jazz combo. Tracing an arc of sound variations, particular passages are often arbitrarily assigned. Frequently as well, congruent sound, could, for instance, be equally attributed to Turner rapping a glass tube, Lehn emphasizing a fluttering pulse or Hodgkinson string-snapping a distorted note. Accomplished enough to be safely off leash, the three are still yoked together enough to produce empathetic improvisations.

— Ken Waxman

— For CODA Issue 339