Thursday, October 25, 2007

Abstract Index Playlist - October 24/07

Belgian electronic/industrial label Sub Rosa has always dedicated itself to anthologizing the sonic traditions of the world, from the chants of Tibetan Buddhist monks to pan-European electronic music of the early 20th century. Their new double disc collection – Persian Electronic Music Yesterday and Today 1966-2006 – is one of the most fascinating releases in the label’s 20 year history. This set sheds light on 40 years of electronic experimentation in a country with deep and ancient artistic traditions.

The two composers profiled in this set, Alireza Mashayekhi and Ata Ebtekar aka SOTE, both employ the characteristic microtonal quarter steps between notes of Persian scales. Their compositions feature deconstructed Persian musical conventions expressed with pure electronic synthesis and treated instruments. Mahayekhi leans more heavily on processed instruments, and the effect of his pieces is fascinating. As soon as one steps into the Persian harmonic world, even familiar instruments seem new because of their relationships to one another. The track I played last week "Mithra" could've sounded irredeemably cheesy with its early digital synthesis sounds, but the overall harmonic orientation and the constant glissandos from on quarter tone to another organized along the lines of classical Persian composition is absorbing.

SOTE, born in the 70s, brings a more electro-acoustic cum IDM approach to his work (he's released music on Warp). He also works with pure synthesis more often than augmented traditional instruments. But he still has an ear to the past in order to fuck with the present (and future). Despite his love of "gotcha!" style sonic surprises which reference the shock tactics of the 50s and 60s tape music composers, he's a crackerjack synthesists, coming up with bold, clear sounds which interact uneasily with musique concrete like strategies and exploded Persian forms. The track from this week in some ways is more identifiably Persian, with heavily processed strings and percussion which give a clue to their cultural inspiration. Nevertheless, someone called up and wanted to hear some Conlon Nancarrow, which would indeed have made a good mix.

There's lots to chew on with this disc. One could compare it with another disc I blogged about last year - Sharokh Yadegari and Keyavash Nouri's "Migration" - but all these composers use very different methods. Really, you should hear both to appreciate their different ideas on how to combine Persian forms with electronics.

japan/universal indians - healing force (cuneiform)
for velasquez - william hooker/jason hwang (knitting factory)
micro tuning - ata ebtekar (sub rosa)
ok bamboo - shuta hasunuma (western vinyl)
raqset al hajjalah - hossam ramzy (arc)
mar sem fim - maracatu nunca antes (no label)
dirtylush stinkwife - mu-ziq (planet mu)
it's a war war war - ghislain poirier (ninjatune)
mashallah - zeb (wonderwheel)
mistaken identity - brain damage feat. dylan bendall (jarring effects)
geamparale de la babadag - toni iordache (asphalt tango)
excerpt from "radio blanche" - nadja etc.
algae and fungi pt 1 - biosphere (touch)
miss kaba - eric truffaz (blue note)
pretinho babylon - digitaldubs (verge)
hard and tuff - dub syndicate feat. yasus afari (lion and roots)
fort augustus/dub - junior delgado (taxi)
kingdom dub - scientist (kingdom)
world dub - bim sherman (revolver)
homeward bound - prince far i (daddy kool)

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