[Music] Stéphane Clor & HJ Ayala – Motoco

Listening to what I would assume is microtonal guitar work (if my friends would be so kind as to correct me, I would be much obliged) proved to be a very rewarding expeience.  HJ Ayala, a friend of this blog, collaborates with cellist Stéphane Clor in this release clocking in at just under 40 minutes.  This is a quiet release, but the interplay between guitar and cello seems to intricate that it managed to hold my attention throughout.  I’m already a fan of Ayala’s guitar playing, so I’m not surprised he continues to release improvisational music of such great quality, but it’s nice to see him collaborate with Clor, whose work I had never heard until today.  A recommended disc.

[Music] Various Artists – Anthology of Contemporary Music From Middle East

Never think that the Middle East is ignorant of current musical (or anti-musical) trends.  They are probably better informed that a fair amount of their Western colleagues, and are making music that proves it.  Once again, many thanks to the brilliant Raffaele Pezzella for being such a visionary.

From the Unexplained Sounds Group Bandcamp site:

Following the Anthology of contemporary music from the African continent, this new collection released by Unexplained Sounds Group, focuses on experimental and alternative music from the Middle East and includes artists from Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iran, Israel, Iraq, Palestine, Jordan, Afghanistan, Cyprus. A kaleidoscope of sounds by artists rooted in their traditions, but at the same time projected towards the new frontiers of music. The minimal melody of Ahmed Saleh introduces us to the exploration of sound paths that unfold through the electronic experimentation of Cenk Ergun, the radical improvisation of Mazen Kerbaj, the pulsating and disturbed electronic of Tony Elieh, the noise drone of Nyctalllz, the tribal and psychedelic music, in the Velvet Underground style, by Afghan musician Naujawanan Baidar, the lysergic ambient of Bloom Tribe, just to mention some projects included in the compilation. An intricate and exciting sound puzzle in which the listener will find his favorite way to a new promised land of sound.

[Music] Various Artists – Zamaan Ya Sukkar: Exotic Love Songs and Instrumentals from the Egyptian 60’s

Belgium’s Radio Martiko continue to impress with their reissues!  This one collects a few old slabs of Egyptian exotica, and it’s one of the most charming comps I’ve heard in a while!

From the label’s Bandcamp site:

Exotica

In Western countries, when we speak about exotica, we think about the likes of Martin Denny, Les Baxter or Arthur Lyman. Musicians who created an exotic dream world by incorporating instruments and rhythms from other cultures in their compositions. The musical influences from Oceania, Asia, Africa, Latin America or the Orient provided a way for the listeners to wander off to an imaginary paradise and escape from their grey, daily routine.

In the late 50’s and the 60’s, it was not only in the West that people felt the need to flee from their regular life. In quite some countries that were considered to be ‘exotic’ from a Western point of view, you can find examples of composers who approached music in a similar way as their Western counterparts. They created their own imaginary paradise by adopting musical influences from other cultures.

Egyptian Exotica

We went through the archives of Sono Cairo, Disques Sharara and Misrphon to introduce the world to the exciting world of Egyptian exotica. You will hear Jazz, bolero, mambo, twist, … but with a different, unexpected feeling. What makes it interesting is that the Egyptian interpretations of the music from other ‘exotic’ countries are very similar in sound, then again very far from the musical traditions of the original country. Crossover styles in an early stage are always unique because different strong traditions can clash abominably but can also blend in a most harmonious way.

The first Egyptian composer who brought striking elements from other cultures into his music was Prof. Mohamed Abdel Wahab. Since the 1930’s his work was punctuated with Western classical music as well as rumba, bolero and tango. Many later composers in the Middle East, especially Egypt and Lebanon, followed his example.
As Cairo and Beirut were flourishing metropoles and beating hearts of cultural life, it’s needless to say that those places boosted the music and record industry. Since more than a century ago European record companies began to collaborate with the Arab music scene to press records, build top notch recording studios and invest in new record labels such as Baidaphon, Cairophon, Misrphon… The latter, which had a partnership with Philips, became nationalised around 1960 and a colonel of the Nasr regime occupied founder Mohamed Fawzy’s chair. Suddenly Fawzy became an employee of the Egyptian state and his salary decreased with 90%.
Sono Cairo, governmental institution, was the country’s national proud and during more than a decade they recorded hundreds of famous Egyptian singers but also artists of varied origin like French, Italian, Greek, Lebanese, African etc.. This big boom of cultural crossover and a sparkling nightlife called for new dancing rhythms and innovative styles. Egyptian movies were hyper popular throughout the Arab world and featured foxtrot, twist and cha-cha-cha. Talented composers were affected by the same craze and started to mix eastern themes and oriental makam with Latin rhythms and jazz harmonies. We tracked down a few Sono Cairo recordings by the great Cuban pianist Luis Varona (Tito Puente Orchestra) playing Exotica sounds à la Yma Sumac and we stumbled on a pair of massive mambo jazz instrumentals composed by Salah Ragab’s tenor sax player Sayed Salamah (tracklist).
We tried very hard to find information about the music and artists in the track list but most of the band members who played during those sessions are long gone and many tracks we selected from 45rpm records seemed to be difficult to identify by several old musicians and producers we interviewed. When we talk about the Sono Cairo archives we are mainly referring to the collection of records we build up during our travels to Cairo in the past 5 years. Upon consulting the digital catalog provided by the staff of Sono Cairo, we couldn’t find any of the selected track titles.

We especially want to use the term ‘Exotica’ because this type of music is so obscure and mysterious in a way to let your mind drift off to wherever it takes you, far away from the normal, the average, off to your own Shangri-la.

Sono Cairo

The songs on this compilation were licensed from the legendary Sono Cairo label, founded by Mohamed Fawzy during the late 50’s and later taken over by the Egyptian state. Sono Cairo was one of the most important record labels in the Arab world, producing records for many artists, among them, the biggest star of the Middle East, Oum Kalthoum. The heritage of this label is enormous and we’re working on several projects to reissue music from this wealthy catalog.

[Music] Current 93 – In a Foreign Town, In a Foreign Land

Being a fan of Current 93 for over 30 years, I have to say that I’ve never heard David Tibet use the term “Hallucinatory Patripassianist rock group” to describe their sound.  Apocalyptic folk, neofolk, post-industrial folk, certainly.  Experimental?  Always.  This new name?  I’ll have to chew on that for a while.  Be that as it may, this is one of the few albums I had not heard until recently, as it was always sold out wherever I looked.  Now, it’s in my computer, and I couldn’t be happier.

This incarnation of the band includes the aforementioned Tibet, along with Steven Stapleton of Nurse With Wound and their occasional collaborator, Christoph Heeman (better know for his work with Hirsche Nicht Aufs Sofa, or H.N.A.S.).  All are masters of making sonic alchemy, and the chiming, drifting pieces give one a hallucinatory (as David puts it) feeling.  I regret not hearing this album earlier.