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.

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Teba hľadá duša má, pokoja nikde nemá

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How about some Slovakian field recordings? Some of them even made in actual Slovakian fields. ‘Chočské vrchy a doliny’ (Choč mountains and valleys) is a ‘Collection of field recordings from north-central Slovakia, capturing soundscapes of local villages Kvačany and Veľké Borové, surrounding meadows and insect population.‘ It’s not all bucolic calm, breathtaking vistas and rustling leaves. The track giving its title to this post is a folk song or hymn – roughly ‘you looking for a soul, there is no peace anywhere’. It’s beautiful, if perhaps lacking in cheer. So it is across this collection, Gruska points his microphones at the people in the villages too and captures a working, populated countryside. The second track is pretty much a minute of chainsaw noises, there are also idling engines and so on alongside the calm and beauty of  ‘Cowbells, prayers, crickets, wind.

Bratislava is also home to Z Tapes, a busy little label putting out weird, lo-fi, bedroom indie pop from the sad misunderstood loners of the world. Somehow I’ve ended up on their email list along the way. This puzzles me because although I find it all quite charming – it has some nice cover art and interesting titles – the music is pretty relentlessly wet and half arsed. I’m not sure any of their impressively international roster is actually Slovak either. Still, bless. You can buy everything they’ve ever put out for a euro if you want it.

Then there’s this. Childish tape collage noise nonsense. A two minute track, which is quite fun and a half hour long one I suspect nobody, not even the guy who made it, has listened to in full. It might become meditative if you stick with it. I wouldn’t know. Although they both appear to have been made using tape recorders and very little else it’s kind of the polar opposite of the Jonáš Gruska stuff at the top.

 

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The Frozen Blood Of Christ

Gavin Bryars’ ‘Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet’, a loop of a homeless man singing in the Elephant & Castle with a gorgeous slowly rising accompaniment, is an unquestionable modern classic, an extraordinarily beautiful piece that seems never to try the patience but only soothe the soul no matter how long it gets. A perfect Sunday meditation then, even for the faithless. Elsewhere, the other day, our friend Red Tin Dave (eta – and since I wrote this post every one else in the world too) shared this video of 10 hours of arctic white noise which is calming and interesting all on its own but, perhaps subconciously because of Bryars’ ‘The Sinking Of The Titanic’, it seemed to me the two might go well together. Now obviously, ‘Sinking…’ makes a great deal of more literal sense, but somehow it just doesn’t seem to be quite as rich a combination. Looping ‘Jesus Blood…’ out to the full ten hours could perhaps finally succeed in exhausting, if not trying, one’s patience. It’d be a hefty time commitment, but playing in the background all day . . .

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Mirt – random soundtrack

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“Random Soundtrack” indeed. For a blurry, enigmatic art film possibly. A collage assembled by chance gesture. Without resorting to nostalgia or pastiche the album is subtly dressed in the vintage clothes of library music and 50’s exotica albums. The hot colours and tribal mask of the cover, the titles (ambient interlude, night sequence, love theme, main theme etc) which come to seem randomly attached to their tracks, found elsewhere and borrowed as much for their blank functionality as anything they evoke, the very title itself. Mirt seems disinterested in literal minded narratives or the familiar emotional button punching of film soundtracks, this has dream logic, what might the unconcious conjur from the collision of disparate elements? For clarity the first track is called ‘Second Track’ – you will be wrong footed from the start, ‘Motorboat Chase’ has bubbling synths and a vaguely aquatic feel but nothing at all to suggest the mechanical urgency of the title. Shifting moods and atmospheres step discreetly back from pushing a particular reading onto you. ‘Night Sequence’ moves from a vague disquiet through clouds of synths and tension building percussion but steers clear of allowing either chills or exhilaration claim it. Like those Exotica records and Eno’s dictum for ambient music, it works well in the background and rewards your attention should you listen closer. Found sounds and field recordings wash through and the whole works as one extended changing and evolving piece divided more for expediency or amusement. ‘Love Theme’ is smudged by rain and traffic and deep down there’s the muffled heartbeat of the city, steady but untroubled by any romantic melody. The pervasive mood is like the warm pink of the cover, it could be the soundtrack to a completely uneventful Bond movie, a shifting travelogue of locations blurring together, the surface of its reflection unbroken by anything so vulgar and needy as drama. The elements begin to align as the sound of waves lapping opens ‘Sunrise On The Beach’ but it’s less a glorious idyll than a confused awakening as the waves morph into abstracted electronic noise. It gives way to the beautiful and calming ‘Main Theme’ the waves briefly returning. Saving the best forlast it’s definitely the high point. Mirt compares making it to a form of automatic writing and suggests it’s “a worrying thought about capturing the image of the last quiet days of the chaotic world.”

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Machinefabriek – Dwaal/Wold

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Not an obscure 80’s Italian cassette this time. Current, obscure Dutch audio tinkerer and graphic artist – hence the lovely sleeve, he always has good artwork. Was available as a cassette, of course, but they’re all gone now. Machinefabriek is a prolific and always intriguing guy. What you’ve got here is two near 20 min slabs of ambience, drones and glitches. It doesn’t really work as background music, it’s far too low key for that, you have to tune your hearing in to its subtleties if you’re going to bother at all. Of course, it’s easy to take the piss out of this sort of thing, you might achieve a similar effect by lying on the floor of the kitchen listening to the boiler and the fridge continue their eternal debate over temperature while the wind rustles the bare trees in the garden. It’s also possible to write all sorts of grand and foolish things about it should you try. There’s processed field recordings and so on, they always bring a calming blank canvas don’t they? Of the two ‘Wold’ is the one I like better, eased along by a pulse of gentle piano notes and quiet birdsong you can’t be quite sure is there or not. If you ever sat, or fell asleep infront of, an old TV tuned to no station and marveled at the sound and patterns in the static then the other track ‘Dwaal’ is more on that type of vibe. The sound of the wind against the mic, squalls of electrical weather. It’s meditative, not the sort of thing you listen to with anyone else. Possibly not the sort of thing you feel the need to listen to more than once either. I love it, did I mention the beautiful sleeve?

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Panic & Carousels Episode 29 – Mr May’s Assertion

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Panic & Carousels Episode 29 – Mr. May’s Assertion

Lucy  – The Horror [Churches, Schools and Guns, stroboscopic Artefacts, 2014]
Foetus – Mesmerin [Soak, Ectopic Ents, 2013]
Foetus – Concrete [Hide, Ectopic Ents, 2010]
D. Edwards – Untitled 3 [Teenage Tapes, Death Of Rave, 2014]
Legowelt – Psychotic Endurance [Crystal Cult 2080, Creme Organization, 2014]
Fluorescent Grey – Derrick May’s Assertion About Techno Sounding Like George Clinton and Kraftwerk Stuck In An Elevator Is Not Accurate [Antique Electronic / Synthesizer Greats 1955 – 1985 Part 2, Acroplane, 2013]
Vaghe Stelle – Sorry I Don’t Know Where I Am Now [Sweet Sixteen, Astro:Dynamics, 2014]
Kaboom Karavan – GeMoetKlaarZien [V.A. – 15 Shades of White, Dronarivm, 2013 ‎]
Francis Dhomont & Noah Sasso – Signé Dionysos II [Dhomontèlements, No Type, 2006]
Jeff Mills – An Alternative to Earth [Chronicles of Possible Worlds, Axis, 2014]
patten – Gold Arc [ESTOILE NAIANT, Warp, 2014]
Primitive Man – Black Smoke [Scorn, Mordgrimm/throatruiner, 2013]
The Body – Our Souls Were Clean [I Shall Die Here, RVNG, 2014]
Mondkopf – Cause & Cure [Hadès, In Paradisum, 2014]
Kangding Ray – L’envol [Solens Arc, raster noton, 2014]
Savvas Metaxas – The Colour You Love [Entropic, Panospria, 2013]
The Hafler Trio – Everyone Was Once Your Mother [A Cure for Kenophobia: Recordings 87-99, Vinyl on demand, 2013]
Leyland Kirby – Breaks My Heart Each Time [Breaks My Heart Each Time, Apollo, 2014]
A New Line (Related) – People Kissed Underneath Me [A New Line (Related), Home Assembly Music, 2014]
Donato Dozzy & Nuel –  Aqua 5 [The Aquaplano Sessions, Spectrum Spools, 2014]
Bohren & Der Club of Gore – Segeln ohne Wind [Piano Nights, [PIAS], 2014]
Opitope – An White Drop Of Morning Dew [Physis, Spekk, 2014]
Bruce Gilbert & BAW – The Expanse [Diluvial, Touch, 2013]
Eluvium –  Welcome Homes / Ceaseless Sea [Catalin, The Contemporary Austin, 2014]
Füxa – Stand By Me [Dirty D, Rocket Girl, 2013]

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