Scotsman Paul Thomsen Kirk has been living in Hiroshima for several years now. Probably the most haunted city in the world, it is a proper setting for Kirk’s exploration of alienation in public, of spaces ignoring each other, of unfriendly architecture. As Akatombo (meaning red firefly), he builds over the course of nine tracks and three short films an air of despair, rebellion, but stasis. There wants to be movement here, but no moves are made.
Even as the record develops from the soft hum of “Friend for Hire” to the more jagged and expressive peaks of the final two tracks, “Portable pariah” and “the sand collector,” there is no sense of progression. There is a psychic weight here that makes the listener feel like sleeping for days. Kirk creates a landscape desperate for meaning, but one in which no one can be sure that trying to change anything is worth it. This isn’t nihilistic so much as fatigued. Something good will happen eventually, right?
“unconfirmed reports” is disturbing but not rousing. It may seem odd to suggest that actual instruments make for the best ambient music, but Akatombo here proves that it is true. Synths and found sounds yes, but some bass and guitar make the mix just human enough to sympathize. 6/10 -- Mike Wood (9 September, 2009)