Kangding Ray: Cory Arcane

Forget the minimal techno you have known so far, because Kangding Ray has managed to manipulate the very essence of the genre to combine the raw (the glitch) with the refined (the melody).
Kangding Ray
Cory Arcane
Raster Noton

Cory Arcane is a person, a concept, an idea of humanity that is mine, theirs, yours, even if you might not be aware of it. It is an existence deeply rooted in the virtual world, scattered through myriads of servers all over the planet, so it’s everywhere and nowhere at the same time. It’s the affirmation and therefore the very negation of self. An album without rhythm is an opportunity; a life with no pulse is (still) an impossibility, but the beats, those darker-than-ever throbs that constitute the skeleton of this record are measures through which the essential is determined. Cory Arcane is Cory Arcane in the deepest sense: it is a statement of a fictional nature, full of contradictions (the melodies in the opening “Acto” and the no-frills rhythm that is “These Are My Rivers”) and unique in its own, uncanny way.

French multimedia and Berlin resident David Letellier — aka Kangding Ray — continues his journey in what is human by delving into the mechanical, by representing a faithful reflection of organic matter in a completely delusional world. His research started in 2006, with Stabil, and took the shape of an almost brutal path towards the meaning of what is mortal. Record after record, minimalism has ceased to be his trademark to become a mere tool that Letellier handles for the purpose of depicting the complex, volatile fluctuations of the mind. In this sense, Cory Arcane is probably his most “complete” work so far, with its obscure, relentless penchant for the cadence, rather than the glitch and a vague, latent but nonetheless present melodic fil rouge to dominate the musical landscape Kangding Ray has constructed.

The cold, mechanical soul of the music is obviously still there, but it is fair to say that rarely, very rarely, has Letellier pushed the envelope so much, letting the mechanics orbit the melody, drifting elegantly — now closer, now beautifully far — from the techno groove. The ambiguity is reflected in the uncertainty that is the character’s own nature. Female, male or both? Kangding Ray provides no hint, no paradigm through which we could have a more reliable idea of the real essence of the his/her individuality. It is a virtual ego whose image is as blurred as ours in cyberspace, half-way between Byetone and Vladislav Delay, with a subtle, rather stronger reference to the latter and his diluted metrics.

Despite the fact that the bass frequencies are as colourful as ever, Kangding Ray makes no concession to the dance floor, and his music continues to shy away from dynamics which are quintessentially alien to him, to his canons and doctrine. True, Cory Arcane flirts with the club and its attributes, but if there is any idea of human rhythmic movement, this is simply as a means of catharsis. In other words, there is no joy or sadness per se, but rather a totally subjective synesthetic landscape that adapts to everybody’s Cory Arcane.

Albums like this require attention, focus and the dedication that is due to a work of moving pictures. Forget the minimal techno you have known so far, because Kangding Ray has managed to manipulate the very essence of the genre to combine the raw (the glitch) with the refined (the melody), and the only way forward seems to be an even closer interaction between the two. In ways that we can only imagine. In the meantime, Cory Arcane continues to live and die a million times. Every single time you log in, someone, somewhere, becomes something else.

RATING 8 / 10