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Paul Thomsen Kirk, aka Akatombo [Japanese for red dragonfly], originally hails from Scotland but lives in Hiroshima.Despite the alluring, grey industrial washes of his sound, underpinned by remorseless rhythms that feel like the late 70s Industrial era revisited via the filter of time and distance, Kirk did not settle in the city that survived an atomic bomb for any morbid reasons.“Apart from the memorials, you’d have no idea of what happened,” he tells me, via phone, from the city.He continues to be struck by the sheer newness of Hiroshima’s architecture, in which buildings constructed as recently as 1985 are demolished on grounds of age, and appalled by a right wing element in the city that gather in large vehicles with blacked out windows outside trade union buildings during meetings and pump out patriotic Japanese music at ridiculously high volumes.Kirk, however, whose wife is from the city, has lived there for 20 year, enjoying a uniquely detached vantage point from which to observe a section of humanity whose outlook and social mores make him feel quite the outsider.His latest album, Short Fuse, is his fifth since he released his debut, Trace Elements.on Colin Newman and Malka Spiegel’s Swim label in 2003. It’s an album of multiple, oblique atmospheres, visual in its muffled evocations - Kirk is also a filmmaker - its layers of samples and field recordings undergirded by grinding, pneumatic beats and broadsides of carefully calibrated noise.
First off, can you tell me a bit about the process of recording Short Fuse, how long it took, the collation of material and processing, etc?Paul Thomsen Kirk: The preparatory recordings for every Akatombo album I’ve released to date have all started off in my work/listening room in my apartment, (aka Crowhill Studio), I have a very, very basic set-up of a Mac with outdated, but useable, music composition software; an external digital sound-capture/processor; a very cheap digital keyboard workstation and a CD recording unit. I begin by listening through headphones to short and long wave analogue radio, random clips from You Tube from such sources as long-forgotten TV programmes, odd b&w movies, foreign language films, bad dramas or talk shows from unknown radio stations - even North Korean propaganda bulletins complete with the sound of marching battalions crunching away in the background and patriotic music in the background - literally anything that strikes a chord within me - and then I record it straight to CD.I then repeat the same process until I’ve around three hours of noises, snippets of foreign languages from every imaginable source from air-traffic controllers to taxi dispatchers to children’s nursery rhymes sang in Laotian.You use a lot of street/field recordings of voices in your music – closer to This Heat's Health & Efficiency than say Cabaret Voltaire – usually quite indistinct. PTK: I try to get out at least for a couple of hours, two nights per week, with my portable sound recorder.Sometimes, I attach it to a telescopic tripod to indulge myself in a bit of photography - and position it near a busy intersection or pedestrian crossing in downtown Hiroshima; press record; and just wait a while.