Approaching the park bench you find there is a soft breeze pulling across you, the sun is almost at it’s peak height for the day and the sound of: birds, light traffic and market vendors fill your ears with slightly differing levels – depending on the way you face. Every so often the tranquil environment is interjected with an unfamiliar sound to the composition that nature was creating, and we feel our focus often broken and drawn to these interruptions.
This is the first release on Mana Records that was released by Swiss composer Pierre Mariétan, founder of GERM (Groupe d’étude et Réalisation Musicales) in 1966 – a group of musicians focused on dedicating their findings to composition and improvisation, with their only release on the highly respected experimental and free-jazz label BYG Actuel consisting of a performance written by both Pierre Mariétan and Terry Riley. Mariétan studied under the greats that included: Zimmermann between (1960 – 1962), Boulez, Stockhausen and Henri Pousseur (1960-1965) across Köln and Basel.
Originally released in 1981, Les Rose Des Vents (The Wind Rose) was a seven day audio documentation of the urban landscapes of France through the mediums of field recordings, poetry spoken by Ana de Carvalho and studio recordings. Each of these components would either appear as a sudden movement or drifting in subtly as the piece moves through different parts over the 1 hour, 41 minutes and 17 seconds. With the length of the piece, it is more approachable than it’s contemporaries in the field – it sat as one of the most sought after pieces in Psycho-Acoustic Sound Art, or whatever you wish to call it; but it certainly is a rich and open piece of work.
Crawling Through Tory Slime pretty much aligns with the current emotions and frustrations that the majority of us feel in ‘broken Britain’. Every day we have something new and shocking to digest, which often coincidentally appears alongside populist news stories – helping to divide the needed attention it requires and allowing it to disappear from view leaving them unscathed. It is also difficult to digest that the unnecessary austerity measures carried out over the last few years are now nearing the end; peoples lives have been put at risk on a massive scale across the cuts that were implemented, if this is the end is so – we should see no further cuts, right? If we do, it’s deceit of the most deplorable form.
As the Conservatism party continues with the social and political experimentation in Populism, watering down the important issues with their longing to appear to the mass populace with jovial actions likened to your typically awful stand-up wedding routine, they play with our economical stability by dropping a 1kg weight on the metaphorical scale that is balanced with your favourite empty mug – this now shattered. Their elusiveness leaves a giant chasm of uncertainty and that is just the way they want it.
One thing is for certain though – they’ve fucked Abba.
Benedict Drew approaches us with his heart on his sleeve: tense, bubbling and pissed off. Political outrage at the heart, which you can certainly feel through the intentional design of sounds – with the sound alike a gargantuan rock tumbling down a cliff side with nobody able to stop it, barraging it’s way through one scenario after another. A the sound of synthesizers bubble and fizz away – it’s almost as if the sounds of slurping and fizzing represent somebody swigging from a cup and watching the horror from a distance, saying nothing – doing nothing. This is just the opening piece.
We find pitched toms alongside large dominating kicks, dark and dreary sounds of synthesizers with high pitched buzzing and glacial sounds against theatrical stabs – it is a project that is true to given title.
Benedict Drew composes alongside Rhodri Davies and Chris Watson; a collaboration influenced by the avante-garde humour of Bruce Lacy and Jeff Keen, spurred by experimental electronics and exhibitions, with all involved spanning across multiple showcases including;
Zero Hour Pertrified, at Llam Campus Gallery School of Fine Arts University of Canterbury, 2014
Notes On Improvisation, recorded at Curtis Mayfield House, Newcastle Upon Tyne, 2011 at the Circa exhibiton Seeing in the Dark by Rhodri Davies
Diptera (. derived from the Greek language of Di-two & pteron -wings) comes 001 [Antenna], moving us into another realm; one that exists through the possession of broken beat, twisting soundscapes and excerpts of pirate radio chops thrown in between.
Diptera is the order of the ‘true flies’, and what a suitably adopted name for the artist’s work. Each sound gives an impression of buzzing through a range of frequencies, from one ear to the next, stopping and starting as the fly rests and tries to escape – banging against the window.
The distinct UKG drum pattern is highly recognisable – skipping between the hats and ghosted snare rims – the shuffle that will never die, and thank fuck for that. Diptera uses this pattern throughout the EP to create the tripped out effect between the wonderfully abrasive sound design.
From amongst little information about them comes De Leon (. self titled), a continuation of the cult followed theme of their 2014 and 2015 releases on /\\Aught – a cassette only label.
The work De Leon focus on feels like a subtle nod towards a dubbed percussive excursion through traditional Gamelan ensemble and Capoeira percussion. The Gamelan’s distintive belled percussion helps to provide notational melodies alongside the hand percussion of Capoeira, which helps to keep driving the rhythm forward, resulting in a sound that sits on a meditative plane.
It’s hyponotic, it’s rich and it’s timeless.
Perfect to sit alongside artists such as Goat (jp) or Markus Stockhausen
I started making most of the music that is found on
“pomegranates” before I had seen the movie or was aware of its
The first song, for example, was made on one of the first fall
nights of 2014. I had just returned from a year-long Darkside
tour and was really happy to be back home. I was making music
in my living room when a huge water bug started dancing on top
of some cables on the floor. Instead of killing it, I decided to
make music for it. I called the song “Garden of Eden” because I
slowly started seeing the little creature as my friend and
helper, and my studio as a garden (with all the wires!).
The next song was originally made for a TV show that I was asked
to score. When it became clear to me that the show was not what
I signed up for, I decided to part ways, which left me with
hours of soundtrack music. I only used a dozen minutes of it for
“pomegranates”, not sure what to do with the rest!
“Survival” was originally meant to be the backing track for
“Ghetto”, a track I produced for Dj Slugo where he talks about
growing up in Chicago.
“Shame” is a beat I made for a rapper, that was declined.
At the end of 2014, I lived with my parents for six months while
in between apartments. I didn’t have a studio, just a piano,
some microphones and headphones. That’s when I wrote “Muse”.
“Volver” is a choir version of an unreleased track called
“Revolver” I made in 2011 that will come out this year
hopefully. Anyways, I could go on and on.
A the beginning of 2015 my friend Milo heard some of these songs
and told me about the film. I watched it and was dumbfounded. I
felt the aesthetic made complete sense with the strange themes I
had been obsessed with over the past couple of years..I was
curious to see what my songs sounded like when synced with the
images, which turned into a 2-day bender where I soundtracked
the entire film, creating a weird collage of the ambient music I
had made over the last 2 years.
The film gave me a structure to follow and themes to stick to.
It gave clarity to this music that was made mostly out of and
through chaos. It also gave me the balls to put it out… I
wanted to do some screenings but the guy who owns the rights to
the film only wants the original version of the movie out there.
I can’t blame him, I’m sure Paradjanov wouldn’t want some kid in
NY pissing all over his masterpiece and calling it a soundtrack!
I’ve listened to it a couple of times without watching the movie
and I think it stands on its own. Or at least I hope it can!
I was still living at my childhood home when I finished
“pomegranates”. On March 1st, I arrived in my new home and it
was completely empty except for a baby tree. The owner was there
to greet me and he asked me if I wanted to keep the baby tree
because he had nowhere to put it and no one to give it to. I
agreed to keep it and take care of it.
Before he left I asked him what kind of tree it was. He told me
it’s a pomegranate tree. He had no idea I had just put this out!
So there it is, it’s yours now!
ps. check the pic of the little tree!
This is the letter that came accompanied with Pomegranates, an accidental pairing of archival music by Nicholas Jaar who was encouraged by a friend to watch ‘The Colour of Pomegranates’ by Sergei Parajanov. Although licensing for screening the film alongside Jaar’s compositions was denied by Parajanov, somebody has set this alongside a youtube video. (Jaar had released this for free in 2015).
This has been released as a double vinyl, if you click on the image below it will take you through.
The finished piece here feels incredibly personal; even more so in my opinion than his ‘official releases’ (. for lack of a better phrase). In the letter above Jaar draws upon his recent tour with Darkside and a return back home, a feeling we are familiar with after time away: the security, freedom and contentedness that follows – these often lead to a spark of inspiration through reflection.
Subtle piano recording and accompanying melodies thread in an out across the length of the recording; all sprinkled with static and high pitched electronics in Jaar’s very distinctive style. At times we are introduced to more atonal and experimental themes, which sit very well (. by sheer coincidence) against the imagery of the film, so it is a shame it did not result in an official release.
Mana’s most recent release comes from O YAMA O; a duo that explore domestic and democratic practices in their work. Formed of musician and artist Rie Nakajima (. who has worked on an expansive breadth of exhibitions and performances) and Keiko Yamamoto Cafe OTO co-founder; one of my most favourite and highly revered event spaces in London (. if you take a brief look at the calendar, the curation of Cafe Oto is one of the best on-going exhibitions going at this time, this is run alongside Hamish Dunbar) putting on artists that span from experimental performance and electronics to free-jazz and contemporary music.
For O YAMA O; this is their debut recorded release, and an impressive one too; which incorporates tones of Japanese Psyche recognised on ‘Oni’ with further exploration of experimentation with pop alongside additional performers – Billy Steiger (violin) and Marie Roux (percussion) where spoken word sits next to abrasive violin streaks and raw and subtle percussion appears wherever either is required; ‘Kitsune’ employs shakers and a large drum all the way through alongside vocals and an indeterminable toy of sorts. In short, there is a great deal to get into with O YAMA O’s playful and highly enjoyable final output.
You could sit this next to the works of Vivien Goldman, David Toop and LUDUS with great pleasure.
Mana Records is headed by Andrea Zarza Canova (. sound archivist and curator) at British Library Sound Archive, with the London Musicians Collective, at the Univerisity of the Arts London Archive and Special Collections Centre, Deep Listening Institute in New York and Pacific Radio Archive in Los Angeles. These are all incredibly interesting positions which influence the overall sound of Mana Records as an Archival Space of both sought after previous works and new, selecting those who are working on brilliant experimental works without being outspoken or hyped, achieved only through merit.
Matthew Kent who hosts the esteemed mix podcast – Blowing Up The Workshop, which has released podcasts from:
Death Is Not The End (. with the sounds of pirate radio in Bristol)