Remembering Syria

Seems a good day for a listen to this fine collection of recordings from Syria. The country seems set to continue filling news broadcasts for a while to come as a gaping open sore of humanity’s worst failings, an ongoing war in which everyone loses. In Gergis’s recordings it’s everything else . . .

A jaw-dropping expose of music, news, interviews, and field recordings from one of the least-known quarters of the Arab world. The country of Syria has been politically and culturally exiled for decades by the western media, leaving little known of its rich heritage of art, music, and culture. Recorded and surgically assembled by Mark Gergis from two trips to Syria in 1998 and 2000, the first 25 tracks feature recordings made in Damascus, a virtual documentary of sound from the legendary capital including street scenes, a wedding, a mosque interior, spontaneous live music and interviews with citizens, radio broadcasts, a song about Saddam Hussein, and the mystery of an underground city called “Kazib.” The final 15 tracks extend to Greater Syria with the same approach, capturing live musicians, political opinions, radio excerpts, an interview with an anonymous homosexual, and unique sound documents from this small but highly influential corner of the Middle East.

I Just Want You To Stay

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This record seemed to arrive on the morning after the referendum result last year, and the title ‘I Just Want You To Stay’ seemed almost too serendipitous to bear. A scouring but soothing way to wash off the fatigue of it. I have to admit it’s that issue of european identity that pulls it back into focus again now. Actually released a month before, in May 2016, and recorded the previous September in Japan there’s even less reason for the actual music to be tied to this whole farce than to its disquieting and slightly contentious cover image of a dog but, here we are. Two giant slabs of drifting, cycling, guitars and effects magic from two giants of improvisation, two thirds of Fenn O’Berg. Music like weather and sea, the listener a tiny boat bobbing on the waves. Storm clouds over the channel – here’s a thing, how hard could it be to find an image of the stormy sky off the coast of the UK, an island nation? If I lived there I’d be taking them every day just to see the light change, indeed when I visit I often feel compelled to and am never sure why I did when I look at the results. The weather’s a national obsession and yet all of them are covered in stock photo decals and logos as if a camera allows you to own the sky, as if it wasn’t always there, always changing, limitless. Click on the, admittedly impressive, pic at the top for a bunch more lightning photos at a site where they didn’t bother with that crap.

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Bye Bye Butterfly

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First time I heard Pauline Oliveros I was pretty gobsmacked by it. Still am really. Just the idea of recording in the cistern to hear it resound, the very concept of ‘deep listening’, the ideas were amazing enough without the music. I have not listened as deeply as I might, I feel there’s still so much to learn from her music and ideas.

13 mins ‘silence’ in memory of a remarkable pioneer

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‘You stupid, vulgar, greedy, ugly American death-suckers.’

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Happy Thanksgiving ‘Murika, Brother Burroughs leads us in prayer ahead of the feast. . . makes a change to switch from Ballard to WSB if not a stretch. Two sides of the same coin in many ways. Thirty years have passed since Uncle Bill penned this jaundiced litany of American ‘acheivement’. It rings true as ever, if not more so for this phenomenal horrorshow of a year. The sense of desperate panic and alarm at what has been uncovered in every think piece article looking for a scapegoat – Burroughs pretty much always saw it this way, he’d be appalled but unsurprised by events you expect.

Thanks for the AMERICAN DREAM to vulgarize and falsify until the bare lies shine through…
. .  Thanks for the last and greatest betrayal of the last and greatest of human dreams.

Up at the top there is a piece of Burroughs’ work called ‘Star Spangled Banner’. Beneath are some of Keith Haring’s from their ‘Apocalypse’ collaboration. ‘Success will write apocalypse across the sky’.

Down at the bottom there, some more comic wisdom from Burroughs in ‘Why I Stopped Wanting to be President’

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‘loathsome mis-shapen bulbous plants spring from their bones.’

 

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