test pressings

REVIEW: Kathryn Ladano – Masked (2019 vinyl)

KATHRYN LADANO – Masked (2019 vinyl version – test pressing)

The new Dr. Kathryn Ladano album Masked will be out soon, and we just got our (very neat and clean) hands on a pristine test pressing of the vinyl LP.  We don’t have the sleeve, liner notes or CD bonus tracks.  However we can say, without any of the extras, that this is a remarkable sounding album.

You can hear Dr. Kathryn breathing, and you can hear the click of the key pads.  The album is completely solo improvisations.  What you hear is what was played in the moment, in the studio.  The fact you can hear the keys and the breathing makes it a very physical sounding album.

Isotope records did an excellent job with the actual cutting of the vinyl.  It will be interesting to hear a comparison with the eventual CD version (which will come with two more songs).  The bass clarinet is a diverse instrument, and it’s possible you won’t even know you’re listening to a wind instrument at times.  There are moments of dissonance that sound like an electric guitar.  Others sound like a broken theremin, Jason Voorhees, or a dog growling!  The second track is absolutely mental.  Ladano also goes full “Van Halen” with speed and frenzy in certain passages.  However it’s all executed with complete control and mastery of the instrument, and you can hear this.

The rich tones of the bass clarinet are evident in the more melodic material, which some listeners might find easier to digest.  The rhythms you can create with the bass clarinet are also pretty riveting.  Each track is different, which is good when you’re listening to instrumental music that is so far out in left field.  This album goes from left to right and all over the place, but rarely hangs around the middle.

As a whole, Masked plays out like the soundtrack to a science fiction film.  Something like THX-1138 or Blade Runner: 2049.  The only difference is that this is entirely performed on one acoustic instrument.  It sure sounds like many, though, because it’s hard to believe a woodwind can make this much noize.

4.5/5 stars

Here’s an interview with Dr. Kathryn by Ambush Schnauzer Paparazzi. She discusses the new album and artwork below.

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