Cate Kennan, Kool Music, Competition

The Arbitrary Dimension of Dreams’ is Cate Kennan’s oblique exploration of memory, nighttime, and narrative. The resulting 12 compositions are brisk, evocative, and lingering. Kennan’s sonic palette is vast yet harmonized, deftly matching spectral synthesizers to hazy lap steel guitars and watery analog effects. Existing in the sparsely occupied world of early melodic electronic music, her songs call to mind the sonic landscape’s of Malcolm Cecil, Hans-Joachim Roedelius, and Deux Filles. Each individual track sculpts a setting, constructing an amorphous landscape of surreal musical vignettes. Picture a boat tied to a dock, bobbing with the waves, wisps of fog refusing the complete vision. This is the nebulous space of ‘The Arbitrary Dimension of Dreams,’ an enveloping, insistent realm that feels both intimately familiar and profoundly otherworldly.

The album sustains the tension between dream, fiction, and reality thanks to Kennan’s investment in the contradictions of these states. She notes that the fundamentally absurd and arbitrary nature of dream does not free us from the dominion that daydreams, fantasies, and wishes have on our lives. Similarly, the understanding that our dreams belong entirely to us, products of our individual mind, cannot undo the suspicion that they somehow come from somewhere else. For ‘The Arbitrary Dimension of Dreams,’ Kennan expresses this tension by pairing the grand gestures of film scores with intensely personal idiosyncrasies: abrupt endings, murky, subharmonic rumbling, and ghostly fragments. Kennan’s sense of timing, her steadfastness, and her daring ensure that even the slightest detail in this narrative is gripping, poignant, and expressive.

Cate Kennan is a Los Angeles native. ‘The Arbitrary Dimension of Dreams’ is her debut LP, following appearances on the compilations ‘Succession Sounds, Vol. I’ (2019, Post Present Medium) and ‘Clay Bodies’ (2021, Objects & Sounds).

Dagobah is the first LP (following a couple of cassettes and a CD) by Kool Music, the solo guitar project helmed by Glasgow-based polymath, Jasper Baydala. Jasper has previously had some exposure on the label, when his image appeared on the cover of Joanne Robertson’s Black Moon Days LP (FTR 179LP, 2015). At that point we knew of Jasper as a video artist and writer, but Joanne assured us he was an excellent musician as well. And so began the road to Dagobah. The soubriquet Kool Music has a bit of a hip-hop heft to it, but the 14 tracks here present a very different picture. Jasper has said that when he first hoisted the Kool Music flag, in Canada back in 2010, its sound was something of a cross between country music and Asian string traditions. Easy aural evidence of those roots has vanished over the past dozen years. The music on Dagobah has certain tonal similarities to the UK free music tradition, but the pieces display a humanity and sense of humor that (rightly or wrongly) we don’t always associate with that scene. Each of the tracks is a solo electric guitar instrumental, usually taken at a slow pace with carefully built layers of sound that often overlap and decay before Kool Music moves on to the next trope. This gives the music a meditative quality, but the mildly casual dissonances make it tough for listeners to just float along on the sound. In that sense, Kool Music demands your attention. Although generally in the politest way imaginable. Every time I spin Dagobah I hear a bunch of new details. And they’re really engaging. As is this whole damn album. And if you let yourself sink into its web, I do believe you will feel just the same. Now that’s Kool Music.” –Byron Coley, 2022

competition is the music making moniker of craig pollard. based in newcastle (uk), craig makes experimental pop music that plays with sparseness and vulnerability, pitched down samples and orchestral programming, crafting songs that build hooks from within their limited materials.

competition has performed across the UK with artists like ana roxanne, julia reidy, caroline, rattle and porridge radio, and regularly organises music and art events for artists passing through newcastle. he publishes writing on music and art making, with a collection of writing on glasgow’s tgigitffy, and hosts a monthly radio show on slack’s. previous competition releases include hell yeah (bleak spring), three songs (oob), repetititive music and you turned into a painting (slip).