Michel Banabila: Singles (2020-2022) (Tapu Records, 2022) + Hidden Patterns (Tapu Records, 2023)

January 29, 2023 at 4:14 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Michel Banabila: Singles (2020-2022)

Michel Banabila has been releasing various forms of experimental music for 40 years; his discography is vast and difficult to categorize. This album consists of various digital singles he’s released so far this decade, almost all of which are collaborations. Solo track “Orbital Resonance” opens the set and couldn’t be more accurately titled, from its flickering, spaced-out intro to its subtly hypnotic loops. Bill Laswell guests on “The Woods”, with Alex Haas, a lengthy soundscape which seems to approximate both whale calls and life in the wilderness. The more percussive “Yek Nefes” features Cengiz Arslanpay’s ney flute playing along with a gentle rainfall of drums. Jeff Greinke appears on “Lattitude and Longitude”, which has stunning sound design and some of the stranger sounds on this CD. Two tracks with Ümlaut and Salar Asid feature eerie-sounding Kurdish violin; the first has sparse percussion and enchanting bass grooves, while the second is much heavier on splashing, waving percussion. Robert Jarvis’ trombone playing on the next two tracks imitate the pitches of speaking voices, resulting in some wild cadences. “An Agreement of Sorts” sounds more chatty and conversational while “A Disagreement of Sorts” is more drawn out at first but eventually becomes a bewildering collage of crossed wires and multiplied sounds. “States of Consciousness” with Gareth Davis is one of the more deliberately confusing tracks here, a musique concrete-style composition with numerous sound fragments clashing together, as well as mutated bass clarinet, animal sounds (I think?), and car alarms. Finally, the nearly 10-minute “Oblong Hobnob” has playful turntable interruptions and whistles, as well as rich harmonium drones. It would be a soothing ambient piece if it wasn’t for all the strange and wonderful sounds fluttering around, transforming into something else.

Michel Banabila: Hidden Patterns

Hidden Patterns is another compilation of Michel Banabila’s recent work, dating back to 2008, and including more collaborations and music from film soundtracks. The whole release actually has a very cinematic feel, with poignant acoustic melodies which seem like they’re underpinning pivotal scenes of self-discovery and realization. It starts out with two brief solo pieces which are ethereal, piano-based, and if not ominous, then at least beckoning things to come. Oene van Geel’s violin gives several other pieces a strong sense of longing, and Anton Goudsmit’s guitar playing on the version of “Ears Tell Us Where We Are in Space” brings the sound closer to ECM-style jazz. “Secunde (CJD Remix)” is a 13-minute epic with murmuring voices and an acoustic bassline which resembled oar strokes pushing a boat down a canal. “Sounds from an Unforgettable Place 1” has more distruptive electronic beats stamping and rattling away, along with haunting vocals. A few other following tracks incorporate sounds that may or may not be vocals of some sort, be they synthetic or manipulated, making it seem like the machines and instruments are speaking. Finally, “One Moment in Time” is another lengthy, peaceful gondola drift filled with subtle murmurs, resonant guitar strums, and slowly blossoming synth swells.


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