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Published: 2002/01/23
by Jesse Jarnow

Escuela – Kooken & Hoomen


When one hears a new genre, it is exciting because it is a sound universe he might not have imagined previously. It is still somewhat contained, but one is initially unaware of where the walls are. The whole principle behind electronic music is that it opened up entirely new worlds of sound where anything truly was possible, theoretically batting down the walls of wonder once and for all.

Just as CGI scripting allows one to show anything he can envision,
electronic music – freed of the bounds of acoustic sounds – allows one to
realize any sound. It is this fact that has made it something of a
surprisingly successful paradox that live bands – as in groups made up of
living people playing in real time – can emulate what is essentially an
infinite music. The trick for them, then, has always been to make it sound
like they are capable of drawing from a broader palette than they actually

Kooken & Hoomen are the latest band to dive into this livetronica genre. At
this point, that approach seems as if it may become as much a liability as a
benefit. With a few exceptions, mostly on the first half of the album, the
possibilities seem fairly limited by the electronic-influenced beats. The
band is more successful at creating music that feels new when they explore
the sonic textures, such as during the introduction to "Sunday Evening" or
the nearly ambient interlude in "Leon and Moses", than when they are playing

Their sound is most assuredly of the west coast variety – soft, like light
passing through water in a glass – and as far removed from the aggressively
industrial house pump of The New Deal as Sound Tribe Sector 9. The drums are
mixed softly, almost lushly.

Electronic music, at its best, transcends the limitations of a finite band
of musicians. It is thus disappointing when the instruments play their
traditional roles, as on "Search Engine", which has a white-boy funk rhythm
topped with some pedestrian keyboard sounds. Too often, Kooken & Hoomen
sound as if they are making conceits to the fact that they are what they
are: using a guitar because that is only what is available to them.

They get it right often enough, though, that one gets the sense that they
really do know what they're doing. At the end of "Sunday Evening", a
child's voice comes in as the final piece of the sculpture. When the kid
speaks, it instantly frames the song differently — not just an in-studio
gimmick of a live band trying to capture themselves, but something
completely and totally necessary for the song. It was right because it was
right. In a perfect world, that's all you really need.

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