by Dan Coffey
Not I’ll Not, released on Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace label, is short as albums go these days, but Elaine Kahn, recording under the name Horsebladder, is adept at stretching time. “Breathing not metronome,” it says somewhere on her website, by way of describing her music, and there is plenty of room and time for some deep breaths here.
This sort of deep breathing doesn’t lend itself to calmness or relaxation, however – it’s more like the deep breath you take when the doctor has a stethoscope on your skin. The keyboards, percussion, and vocals, whether looped or played straight, at first sound deliberately cold and distant. It’s only after a few minutes that you begin to realize that these songs have an almost alarming depth of sensitivity. Rather than being coldly unemotional, Not I’ll Not captures what it feels like to be emotional and feel cold. Which isn’t to say that Kahn doesn’t have a jaundiced sense of humor: she interpolates the chorus of The Foundations’ “Baby, Now That I’ve Found You” into the end of the song “Lashe.”
Kahn does what many artists have tried to do and failed: produce a somber and spare album that doesn’t seem trite, ersatz, or forced. With odd rhythms, multilayered vocals that are alternately clear and unintelligible, and drums that stop and restart time as often as keep it, Elaine Kahn’s second Horsebladder album situates itself nicely in the position where pop, avant-garde, and lo-fi minimalism meet. It’s not the easiest of listens, but it will get under your skin.