Kevin M. Krebs / 833-45 (en)

«The radio for me is a fascinating and powerful thing of almost mythical proportions… Before the discovery of radio by Marconi and others, the ability of transmit & receive voices across vast distances was the sole province of the gods & goddesses.»

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Kevin M. Krebs / 833-45

From every corner they say: electronica is dead, you see, it is absolutely irrelevant, and has nothing new or interesting to boast of. They say indie-pop and hiphop are in the top rates, but the rest — in particular, what is associated with computers — is junk.

And I wonder where this news come from?

Everything is alright with hiphop, no doubt, the same is true for indie-pop — the right thing. But for some reason I get an impression that as soon as some of interesting genre or ideology appears, it immediately gives birth to enormous amount of its representatives. They start spreading so fast and so wide that it’s already quite enough for everyone for ever. And it’s not the point if it’s just a lumber or something noteworthy, everything rolls down to the single grinder, the new radical modifications follow their ancestors straight out, they all appear and disappear with the same speeding-up. This list includes neo-hiphop, bastard-pop, and schizoid pop. And all this stuff is in fact as numerous as gloomy elecronica, while the choice remains as limited as it always has been. And for some odd reason electronica turned into a scapegoat among this musical pseudo-history, they say, nothing happens there while something does in all other spheres. What a black sheep!

Another point of fashionable discontent is the musicians who stand at their notebooks or electronic boxes moving sliders, while they must make a show. They’re dull. Their performances are tedious. What’s the fun to stare at a motionless figure for a couple of hours?! That’s the attitude. But however, such behavior does not necessarily mean that the performer is a boring, witless, and lazy person. Could be he’s just working and he doesn’t want to show off to pose as somebody who he really is not. Yeah, do not hesitate to contact Marilyn Manson and Rammstein for a spectacular show!

One of my e-mail friends is a 100 per cent electronician. I mean he produces electronic music using electronic gear, mainly a computer. He performs standing and managing electronic devices. In short, he does nothing from an advanced contemporary listener’s point of view, therefore promises no good.

Snooks! I’m sure Kevin M. Krebs is one of those who slightly pushes forward the wheel of musical history. At least, the net-music wheel.

Kevin M. Krebs dwells in Vancouver, Canada together with his wife and a small daughter, a heap of friends, musicians, and his own label Nishi (the sublabel of Montreal based No Type). Kevin’s musical career counts dozen of net-albums he released under cover of 833-45 or under his own name. Once Andrey Kiritchenko told me that Kevin is absolutely tolerant to the format of the release — if it’s mp3, so be it mp3. Almost all music he has published by today is mp3 excluding a couple of self-released (but, by the way, very carefully and originally designed) CD-Rs.

What about his music… At first glance it seems close to ambient. But this characteristic would rather appear before you get deeper. Anyway, this is not the music for inattentive listening — Kevin demands attention, it’s almost visible in his works. So, the more you listen the clearer it gets: Kevin Krebs beat ambient as Kenenisa Bekele beat Haile Gebrselassie on the distance of 10kms during the last Olympic games.

The first 833-45’s record I heard was LP Solar Cycle 23, which was released through Autoplate in far 2002.

Format 192Kbps mp3

833-45 «Solar Cycle 23» LP [APL004]

Autoplate, 2002

The core of this music consists of radio-samples and virtual instruments for CSound — the main Kevin’s instrument (CSound is software from the family of technologies like PD or Max/MSP, but the work with CSound means writing code while PD and Max/MSP are graphic-oriented environments).

The most important album’s advantage is that its author warns listener about nothing, doesn’t try to meet any half-way. If there’s a point to make it tedious, it’s tedious, the drone can last long and strong. And also Kevin doesn’t at all mind using creak, and so deafening you have to hold on to your chair. But despite the long-windedness of this music, its separate fragments sound without overdose, Kevin doesn’t take delight in endless enigmatic combinations, most likely understanding that an overload of enigma may stop the intrigue. This is why the tracks of Solar Cycle 23 are insistent and exacting, they strictly claim listener’s attention and response. And if this response turns into interest, the music becomes zombing in the good sense of this word.

About a year ago Solar Cycle 23 by 833-45 and Kapotte Muziek’s History Is What Was held the top positions in my favorite playlists.

Kevin Krebs’ music can be compared to the films from those, which must be seen several times and within a small company or even alone. They absolutely stump you at first, but the more times you go over it again the more vague hints appear, the more slits open, which lead the observer to the semantic loopholes that remained unnoticed for a long time. And at the same time this music is not very deterrent, sometimes even quite friendly. So, it seems that this isn’t ambient, but probably a kind of independent pop-music (something like ‘drone-pop’). Let’s check out the wonderful interplay of minimal-house by Tomas Jirku and radio-droning by Kevin M. Krebs:

Format 128Kbps mp3

833-45, Tomas Jirku «Warrenton / Singularity» [NT 025]

No Type, 2000

Kevin made the track called Warrenton, Tomas made Singularity. And then Kevin remixed Singularity, and Tomas remixed Warrenton. As always Kevin filled the release with obscure radio, while Tomas diluted it with minimal-beat.

The original tracks sound as they intended to sound; the remixes represent the projection of the intentions on something absolutely unsuitable. Despite the fact that everything is very simple (Kevin drones with his radio and Tomas taps and crackles with his glitches) the whole picture turns out to be quite entertaining. It’s not even the combination of incongruous things, as a matter of fact all those are the same music.

Why are you doing 833-45, in general?

«In a way, I find this a strange question for me to answer. It’s a bit like asking why I beat my heart or breathe. I just happens. Music seems to be my natural artistic outlet, my method for organizing and expressing my experiences.»

Smart wording, but I meant something different. I’m sure, 833-45 not just only for display, what one can do with radio frequencies.

«You are correct. The original impetus to focus on radio sounds was mostly to limit myself, something which I find often allows me to be more creative since it challenges me to solve problems in new ways.»

A small digression: Kevin graduated from Simon Fraser University in 2000 as a BA in Communications, and he continued his research in communications theory after his graduation. Radio is his specialty, so it especially deserves attention that he is engaged in creating musical works, not just scientific.

There’s something more behind your music, something, that makes one treat it seriously, more attentive than just ambient works.

«I’m pleased to hear you say that. I have never been comfortable with the traditional idea of ambient music as music that you aren’t meant to pay attention to. That’s only one step away from the muzak being piped into strip malls across the world. I make music for it to be heard, and heard deeply. Maybe you will like it, maybe you won’t — that’s not the point — I just ask you listen with effort and respond; create a dialogue. Certainly, I am much happier when someone dislikes my music as opposed to having no feelings about it at all. The knowledge that their art doesn’t move someone in any way is the worst criticism an artist can receive.»

It’s funny — I had written about response in the review of Solar Cycle 23 much earlier than I connected to Kevin. If his music speaks almost in his own wording, it means he is a damn cool musician.

And what about the radio stuff itself? What it means for you, what are you searching for within the cold far voices and noise?

«The radio for me is a fascinating and powerful thing of almost mythical proportions… Before the discovery of radio by Marconi and others, the ability of transmit & receive voices across vast distances was the sole province of the gods & goddesses. Today, because radio is so ubiquitous and commercialized, we take this aspect fore-granted. A majority of people are unaware that there is more out there than what they pick up on their AM/FM radio.

Also, the name 833-45 comes from radio astronomy, stolen from the name of a pulsar. For those of your audience who don’t know, pulsars are dead stars that spin extremely quickly, emitting radio waves at regular intervals. Indeed, upon the first discover of a pulsar, astronomers believed it was a radio signal from an extra-terrestrial intelligence.

Furthermore, I am drawn to the ‘eavesdropping’ nature of radio. The paradoxically simultaneous sense of closeness and distance you feel when listening to shortwaves from across the ocean. I can’t really formulate this into words very well, it’s just something I feel, and hopefully am able to share with those who listen to my work.

On a bit of a tangent, Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky, a Russian geochemist coined a term called the ‘noosphere’, which was later popularized and elaborated on by the philosopher Teilhard de Chardin. It is meant to be analogous to the biosphere or geosphere, except whereas they refer to the ‘layers’ of living or dead matter, the noosphere is the ‘layer’ of human thought, ideas and consciousness that envelopes out planet. While not scientifically measurable, and somewhat loaded with religious connotations by de Chardin, I find this idea fascinating, and consider my radio-based compositions to be an articulation of this global consciousness. Finally, this also connects with C.G. Jung’s writing on the collective unconscious, another important, if abstract and peripheral, influence on my compositional practices.»

Musician — walking library. Well, I really like people, who can tell much about what they do. But all this concerns only 833-45. What main idea distinguishes «833-45» from «Kevin M. Krebs»?

«I originally started working under my given name because I felt slightly limited doing work only as 833-45 — that project had a very particular theme, and my interest in music spans the entire spectrum. I found myself making music that didn’t fit in with the themes I work with as 833-45. As I am sure you have noticed, my work under my given name encompasses a great deal of genres from minimal house to abstract ambient.

Lately this distinction has been breaking down; my recent 833-45 work is relying less on radio interceptions and drawing in more elements of popular music. Indeed, some of my live work even features covers.

Much of this is due with my boredom and frustration to the ‘ambient experimental’ music subculture. I am painfully tired of the faceless, monotonous drones that are continually being spewed out, along with all the self-congradulatory nonsense that goes on, as if they were pioneering the future of music.

To be honest (and I could never have imagined saying this a few years ago) I find pop music much more interesting and groundbreaking than what many self-proclaimed experimental musicians are doing. I have become especially entranced by the whole mash-up/bastard pop movement, exemplified by artists like 2 Many DJs and Osymyso.

I have come to realize recently that the foundation for my music rests upon my ability to find a middle-ground between academic and popular music. I am fascinated by the early history of electronic music: immense figures such as Xenakis, Stockhausen, Cage, Henry, Ussachevsky, and so on. I must admit that I find much of their work fresher and more involving than modern electronic music where many artists appear to have been sidetracked by technological fetishism. So many of the world-shattering works from these masters were made with extremely poor quality gear (by today’s standards, anyway). Please note that I am not arguing against technology — that would be terribly hypocritical — but rather suggesting that we spend more time focusing on ideas than reading glossy gear porn magazines.»

Kevin Krebs in Montreal

Kevin Krebs in Montreal

I got highly interested in the Kevin’s reflection of the matter. The thing is that the word ‘pop-music’ is dazzling frequently flashes over the musical pages nowadays. At that, as a rule, particular hopes for further evolution of music are closely associated with this word; it starts even striking as the only possible way of music development. But at the same time I have many friends, who coming over usually ask me to change Putting The Morr Back In Morrissey for whatever. But Putting The Morr… is 100 per cent pop-compilation from the pop-label Morr Music, it’s filled with balanced examples of idm and triphop — and that is why I consider it as ‘music for guests’. Here is the reality: modern pop-music is not truly popular.

But except this there’s another important point about modern pop-music. It often turns out to be an ideological weapon aimed at a pure experiment. And the question is not about some fight between the two ideologies — it is about the desire to be unique, different from others. Immense number of modern noisers resemble the pseudo-techno boom of the 90s: I mean Dr. Alban, Mo Do, 2 Unlimited, Ice MC, Ice T, etc. They all were similar species of the same population: similar sounding, similar absence of musical sense, one music is indistinguishable from another, bom-digi-digi-digi-bom-digi-bom.

And therefore it’s not really bad, that musicians such as Kevin M. Krebs aim at making exactly pop-music. They just fool us with smooth talks, in reality this is their natural need not to become someone like Scooter, or Celine Dion, or Aube, or the sort of things. Just speak your mind and ask Kevin to make a song, which could touch your soul, if he’s a pop-musician. It all depends on his politeness, but most likely he would stare at you as if you were dumb. But then he would anyway make this song, and not with the purpose to stir your soul, but because you haven’t understood anything, you need an example. And listening to this example, you would probably cry ‘Wow! What a cool stuff!’ and you would call this maybe ‘indie-pop’ or ‘abstract-pop’, and thereby declare the immense range of discretion of the term ‘pop-music’.

Let’s dive deeper. With all this in mind, it is obvious that, let’s say, Christian Fennesz and Hans Appelqvist produce pop-music. Christian and Hans possibly know that the convincing mimicry is much more effective than expensive make-up, so their music sounds in such a way that one can catch it from the first-second try. And this fact blurs the borders between pop-music and underground. Popular music nowadays is not just melody + rhythm + groove + public recognition, the criteria list reduced to a single one: the possibility to be digested by a certain audience, which often is severely limited (that is fully applicable to underground as well). Modern pop-music lost its popularity, if it’s almost as numerous as its listeners. Now it comes down to its unpopular characteristics. The academic approach mentioned by Kevin, is just that characteristic, at least one of them. His music is too overfull with sense to be experimental ambient.

I shortly described my point of view to Kevin, and here’s what he replied:

«Let me rephrase my original statement… thinking about it, it’s not as though I intentionally set out with the concept that I’m going to find that middle-ground between academic & pop music. It isn’t a decision I made, and in fact, I didn’t realize I was doing it until it was pointed out to me by a few of my friends.

I disagree with that statement that «there is no difference between experimental and pop-music» — but I do agree that the border between them is considerably blurred. We must keep in mind that this separation has always been more intellectual than actual. That we set them up as diametrically opposing and even hostile forces is a mistake.

I think what has happened in the last five or ten years is that the conflict of ‘experimental vs. pop’ has been deconstructed and they are no longer conceptualized as antithetical to one another. I have a theory this has been due in part to the massive rise of digital music on the internet allowing you to find just about any piece of music your heart desires — but that’s another topic I won’t go into.»

And this is right, such questions should bother paper-stainers. Let Kevin make his music, which sometimes appears to be very hard to describe.

The set of examples

Format VBR mp3

K.M. Krebs «The Halberd of Chemistry» [fukkgod021]

Fukk God Lets Create, 2003

I rarely focus my attention on the label Fukk God Lets Create, in my opinion it releases much senseless noisy crap. But at times some worthy of attention occurrences appear there, and Kevin’s work The Halberd of Chemistry is certainly among them.

Kevin pointed out that he releases very diverse music under his own name. This album represents his manipulations with field recordings and muffled noisy textures; there are no radio-samples here at all. Well, maybe a few, but anyway he didn’t make an accent on radio. The main point in this work is meditative barely audible sounds. It’s strange music — there’s almost nothing happening in it, but it’s not lean enough to serve as background, one has to listen to it closely.

Format VBR mp3

833-45 «Deadfire» EP [2063music 046]

2063music, 2003

Seems that making this record 833-45 went too far in his aspiration for moving as far as possible from abstractions and experimental ambient. The thing is that work was the first 833-45’s one, which Kevin decided to push beyond his own limits of styles. And apparently the first experience turned out to be a celebration of the fact that everything got possible. That’s why Deadfire comes a mass of drum’n’bass thunder, aggressive radio and predictable changes of spirit — and all this harmed the whole thing. For instance, the latest work Xi Phosphe is much more interesting, while also staying quite far from abstract ambient and being unlimited from the structural point of view, but remaining full of hidden senses and subtle musical lures.

Format 128Kbps mp3

833-45 «Sunspot» [NT 040]

No Type, 2001

Despite the fact, that Sunspot was released two years before the Deadfire (how sounds!), while listening to it I noticed, that probably Kevin found abstract ambient useless quite long ago. Sunspot is also overfilled with beat and distinctness, and in general everything is quite uncomplicated here: droning radio from the bottom, fitfully squeaking radio from the top, and rhythmical constituent in the middle. But there’s one shooooort track, that…! Just a couple of samples, but God! The microscopic radio-atom, radio-insect appears in the immense worldwide air; it just exists, uncontrolled, non-natural, and impossible with relation to the theory of telecommunications. As a usual insect it lives only a minute. But sounds extremely inconceivable.

My favorite 833-45’s compositions were and remain his remixes on Andrey Kiritchenko’s music: Mayonaka (Constructions for Andrey Kiritchenko, Autoplate 2002) and Cryptic Invic (Bees & Honey, Zeromoon 2003). Especially Cryptic Invic: though Bees & Honey has many other interesting things, the disk is worth getting even just because of 833-45’s track. It seems to me the clearest reflection of Krebs’ talent for stretching strange wires between what is here and what is only implied.

It’s a bit unclear, I’ll try to explain. Try to remember yourself, when you were an energizer 4-5 years old and first learnt that the Universe is boundless. If it was so, try to resemble how you were lying at night under the blanket and trying to imagine what endlessness is, trying to put that into your tiny mind, squeeze it in your own conceptual space, which has not been marked yet with the after-effects of abstract thinking. And now try to remember the incomprehensible and awful sensation, when you weren’t able to imagine the boundlessness of the Universe, try to remember your feeling of insignificance. In a way, I restore this feeling listening to Krebs’ music. However the boundlessness of the Universe is history, passed at the lectures on higher mathematics. Now I’m trying to imagine the neutron star PSR B0833-45 also called Vela Pulsar, which has the radius of about 20 km, and at that weighs twice as much as the Sun (which has a radius of approximately 1 million km). And somewhere unbelievably far that abnormal cosmic creation is revolving on its axis 11 times a second and zooming with senseless but bewitching radio-signals. I’m trying to imagine those insane stars and I feel pleased, because I know that such thoughts evoke in some people the desire to make music.

big thanks to Svetlana Ogorodnik for editing

Kevin M. Krebs’ web-page:


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