Kernschmelze III – Concerto For Improvised Cello is the collaborative work between British artist and rolific punk pioneers Penny Rimbaud (Crass) and British cellist Kate Shortt. It will be out on April 1st via Caliban Records. “Section 3” is the first excerpt. Listen below and read the full story.

Translated from the German, “kernschmelze” means “meltdown”, generally nuclear. However, it can also mean “the process or state of irreversible breakdown or decline” which, in the context of this recording, Penny Rimbaud sees as the catastrophic social effects of Covid-19 through punitive politicisation.

In 2011, in response to the Fukushima disaster, Rimbaud created an electronic composition working on a Fostex 4 track recorder to process voice sounds until “they were no longer recognisable as such”.  This, he hoped, would give the finished piece an “underbelly of humanity within a situation like Fukushima where our very essence becomes challenged”. The ominous nature of the result is hard to ignore, but deep within it there does seem to be a cry (or is it a scream?) saying “we can do better”. This key motif has been central throughout Rimbaud’s creative life.

Although the original version of ‘Kernschmelze’ stands strongly on its own, Rimbaud’s choice has been to employ it as a canvas to a series of recordings featuring different solo artists. The first of these was described as a “concerto for electronic piano” featuring Charles Webber on keyboards, while the second being a “cantata for improvised voice” along with Crass songstress Eve Libertine.

‘Kernschmelze III – Concerto For Improvised Cello’, features Kate Shortt with whom Rimbaud has worked on innumerable projects. Describing her as “an avant-garde romanticist”, he feels that this recording ably showcases her extraordinary musicianship and imaginative skills, adding with an affectionate smile, “where angels fear to tread”.

Shortt takes on the challenge of Rimbaud’s uncompromising canvas with consummate ease, weaving a form of solace into what otherwise leaves little hope. Which is not to say that she misses out on expressions of anger and frustration which, given that the recording was made during lockdown, was at the time highly pertinent to us all.

The result is a dramatic and daring experiment in ambient tension mining similar apocalyptic territory to Rimbaud’s latest outing with Youth, ‘Corpus Mei’. Instrumental world-building recalling free jazz and Herrmann-esque soundtracks of suspense.