The Zelig of Avant-Garde Music
Eyvind Kang Strings His Way into the Art of the Matter
There isn't a pop bone in Eyvind Kang's body—well, if there is, it's located in the knuckle of his baby toe. Nevertheless, the local multi-instrumentalist has become a hugely in-demand musician whose résumé includes cameos with Animal Collective, the Decemberists, Mr. Bungle, Beck, John Zorn, Wayne Horvitz, and Sunn O))).
A master of the viola and violin, Kang also plays bass, drums, piano, guitar, tuba, and more. When called on by other musicians, he usually imbues songs with subtle skeins of somber melodiousness. Sometimes he's asked to solo, and the results are memorable. On Alvarius B.'s cover of the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows," Kang's viola creates a riveting penumbra of frazzled shivers around the overly familiar melody, taking brash liberties with a beloved chestnut. With Six Organs of Admittance's "River of Heaven," Kang casts a gorgeous spell with a serpentine viola solo that ascends and descends like a preternaturally graceful mood swing.
Animal Collective member Geologist recalls working with Kang on the group's Feels album. "He was only there for an afternoon. We had sent him live recordings of the songs we wanted him on... but he never had a chance to listen to them. So he came in and would listen to each track once, then talk with us about ideas, and then just improvise over the song... He never hit a wrong note."
When not being a musical Zelig, Kang maintains a prolific solo career. Often working with his wife, vocalist Jessika Kenney, he puts a heady spin on drone, avant-garde composition, kosmische ambience, and even a bastardized sort of reggae on 1998's Theater of Mineral NADEs. In the last few months, Kang's released two albums: Visible Breath for Stephen O'Malley's Ideologic Organ imprint and The Narrow Garden for Mike Patton's Ipecac label. The former exactingly delves into tonal minimalism, attempting to wring maximal emotion through the most severe droneological means and minuscule gestures. The latter sounds like impossibly rarefied court music composed by someone with roots in multiple cultures, displaying profound empathy for all of them. It's a novel blast of ancient aural auras, exemplifying Kang's shape-shifting virtuosity.