Hiro Kone - Pure Expenditure

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:7 Release Date:2018-08-24
Hiro Kone - Pure Expenditure
Hiro Kone - Pure Expenditure

New York City musician Nicky Mao, working under the name Hiro Kone, has been putting out her own unique blend of unsettling melodies and engrossing rhythms for about seven years. Pure Expenditure, her second full-length, is loaded with half-shadowed synths and complex beats, carving out a niche that's mostly cutting edge, but with brief nods here and there to previous electronic pioneers. It manages to exude lots of personality without coming off as trying too hard to be anything in particular, and for that alone it deserves praise.

Lead track 'Holobiont' wastes no time in creating a sense of unease, moaning and pulsing its way into existence before throwing the bare essentials of a beat into the mix to give the tune some direction. It's a brief but tantalizing intro that hints at and warns of what's to come. The title track bears out that promise, with a skittering piece of techno dystopia that rolls relentlessly forward, crushing anything in its path.

'Scotch Yoke (Parts I and II)', with its very British title, does sound a bit like something that may have come out of the U.K. in the mid 1990s, but adds more of a Blade Runner creepiness to the mix, slowly ramping up the static to near-intolerable levels before letting all the edges drop away, leaving a spa-flavored slice of relaxation behind for the outro. While I enjoy most of what the album offers, I found this twisted and tweaked take on ambient electronic most intriguing, and wish it had been explored for more than just a couple of minutes at the end of one song.

After such a pleasant, not-quite-meditative moment, the set veers off wildly in the opposite direction, with nihilistic oppression of 'Poortgebouw', a song that opens with an earthquake of soul-sucking ultra-bass synth. As it progresses, however, it manages to become both shimmery and dusty, like a cowboy flying a spaceship. But it doesn't fully captivate despite its ambitions. 'Outside the Axiom', on the other hand, is a fantastic throwback, somewhere between darkwave and Throbbing Gristle. The sparse beats and electronics at time evoke the nightmare murder basement sound TG were so adept at, and lead singer's vocals are a solid imitation of Geneis P-Orridge, in both performance and content. But it's more than just that; halfway through, the tune opens up and becomes much brighter, with firm, mellow synths and pitter patter beats transporting the ears.

'Disoccupation of the Sphere' is delightfully cyber-noire, the sound night trains and steam rising up from the streets. It had me on the look out for androids, but it also projected some of Yello's cosmopolitan sensibility. 'Truth That Silence Alone' continues on in much the same way, with majestic slabs of metal colliding into each other while alien ghosts swirl in the darkness.

This is a tough album to assess, because parts of it are brilliant, and brilliantly disturbing, but it's not exactly an enjoyable album. It's rough going in places, challenging and a little avant garde, but it has to be respected for its willingness to rattle around in uncomfortable configurations. I don't love this album, but I admire it. It's the kind of envelope-pushing work we need more of, or what's a computer for?

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