Masstransfer << Rewind: KILN

This article was originally published in the fourth issue of Masstransfer, 2000.

“We’re very much lovers of the energy of sound. The illusion that a musical environment can ‘float’ or ‘fly’, or portray ‘velocity’ and ‘depth’ is very much another aspect of continual fascination for us”, states Clark Rehberg of Michigan’s KILN.

Evolved over several year of experimentation, both musical and spiritual, KILN’s music is a nourishing mix of tones and rhythms, most accurately captured on their latest recording, Ampday. The ensemble is comprised of Rehberg, Kirk Marrison, and Kevin Hayes performing in various incarnations for over 5 year under the auspices of the Earthtone Colectiv.

kiln ampday

Clark explains, “Using the term The Earthtone Collectiv was a way for the three of us to coordinate and cluster our various incarnations, which were all proceeding in tandem in the mid-90’s, under one umbrella.” An excellent specimen from this era was the 3-way split on Mind Expansion from 1997, which included Waterwheel, FibreForms and OwlEye. “Waterwheel and Owleye were solo recording efforts, while Fibreforms placed a live performance vein (however, sparingly) into the studio-centric core. This was a early fertile zone, responsible for Fibreforms’ ‘Treedrums’ (EarthTone) + ‘Stone EP’ (Roomtone), and Waterwheel’s ‘Panchroma’ (Allley Sweeper). Granted, these weren’t necessarily released chronologically… different labels and that whole dance.”

These raw, disparate elements would soon draw together to form a solid unit. “Late 1996 we found ourselves spread across the lower 48. Kirk continued exploring various methods of the new ‘hard disc’ recording option, Kevin (while participating in a program studying Eastern medicine) developed a complex circular technique of beat composition called ‘petaling’ (written through a process of concentrating on the forms of exotic flowers), and I found myself in the desert learning the art and science of audio signal flow.

“Through this period came a collection of Waterwheel music called ‘Tungsten’ that was intended to appear as a Waterwheel EP… this never materialized. Most of the music, however, found itself presented in some form on 1998’s ‘Holo‘ (on Thalassa). Taking the cue from his output, I found myself experimenting with pitched down derailers and household miscellany overtop of crude 12bit loops on 100degree nights. It was this work that eventually became the KILN EP (on Roomtone).

“Originally intended as yet another satellite for the Earthtone set, a year or so later (upon reconvening), it was decided that KILN should be adopted as the trio’s proper title (essentially replacing the term: Fibreforms). So, from there we’ve offered the electrified gallery called ‘Holo‘ (mentioned above) and our attempt at soundsculpture-as-popsong-facsimile: ‘Ampday‘, of this year.”

As the latest release, Ampday delivers a more satisfying substance, the direct result of basic band interplay and recording techniques. Rehberg continues, “Ampday was the first recording project in two years that the three of us were in the same place at the same time to record. This was significant in that it allowed us the space to develop a ‘theme’ and attempt to work it out as fully as possible. So, for whatever reason, we decided to explore the notion of ‘the easily digested’ melodic. From the beginning, our mentality was one of constantly ‘stepping back’ and allowing any given ‘work-in-progress’ to indicate what was needed for its completion. This type of process seemed natural to us, and by allowing an environment to breathe, the music develops it’s own identity.

“Our intention, which evolved over the year+ of the writing and recording of ‘Ampday‘, was to create brief, bright, and upbeat tracks based around performance driven recordings of guitar and drums (highlighting Kevin’s kitwerk ) – an experiment in grappling with a difficult form (for us anyway), the ‘pop song’. All that really meant chromatically, was that any cheery chord structures lying about were finally to be considered for use. The other intention of the ‘Ampday’ sessions was to utilize, as genuinely as possible, classic modes of naturalist recording techniques. Lots of microphones through tube micpre’s capturing amps, drumkits, shakers, and B3 simulations. For us, this approach was extremely difficult to maintain. The end result, I think, is a collection that does portray our original intent while still offering (just below eye level) our usual microfiche. I’m satisfied with its energizing stance. I think we’re burnt on the guitar thing for a while though.”

Clark sums up his thoughts eloquently: “I think the intention of our work is to depict the (often) hidden magic of our lives, through our fascination with the shape & color of rhythm & sound, by presenting frequency arrays that sub-consciously interact with the magnetic grid of the listener, evoking a space within which to consider healthy esoterics.”

If you haven’t yet listened to the results of KILN’s sonic theories, I suggest seeking out at least one of the products mentioned above. Your mind, body and soul will thank you for it.

Astral Welder (2020)

Just last week, the group released their first album since 2013, entitled Astral Welder, on Ghostly International. Pretty much carries on their sonic traditions, moderately aged and slightly rounded at the edges – modern living room music for lockdown leisure.

Ryan Anderson

Author: Ryan Anderson

My name is Ryan Anderson, music aficionado, technologist, and former editor/publisher of Masstransfer zine. I’ve been following these genres for almost 25 years now and these are my favorite bands and albums.