Thursday 28th AprilApril 29, 2011
Another early start, another depressing day, but home early enough to be able to first get some rest and then spend some quality time with some music. I have been listening today, and on and off for a few weeks now to a new box set of three vinyl discs by the Greek group Mohammad, who consist of Nikos Veliotis, (cello) Coti.K (double bass) and Ilios (oscillators). This new set, named Spiriti comes a year after their fine debut Roto Vildblomma, which I wrote about here. As I wrote this evening though, despite having been sent digital files of the music quite some time ago I notice from the Antifrost label’s website that the release won’t be out for another ten days or so. I guess then that for once my slow approach to writing about things has actually seen me time this one about right.
The music here then is really interesting, thoroughly riveting stuff, but it isn’t quite what I had been expecting, which is always a good sign. The three discs each have individual titles, which are then split down into further tracks. There are eleven tracks in total, with five of the six ‘sides’ containing two tracks each of roughly seven minutes in length per track, and the one remaining side, the second half of the first disc containing just the one eleven minute long piece.
So disc one is named Malad Van, and the first side opens with a really striking, and surprising piece that I can only really describe as somewhere between death metal played on classical instruments and a traditional string quartet slowed down so far that only heaving bass groans remain. The music is entirely composed, and actually thoroughly melodic, essentially a series of riffs that you find yourself humming along to, but all working with extremely deep, bassy notes, churning, grinding strings wrapped around a simple three or four note tune. Yes, a tune! albeit it a very simple one that doesn’t really develop beyond this simple coda and regularly slips into the more familiar constant drone we are used to from these guys. Its actually really addictive, to some extent fun music. The use of the minimal repeated forms reminds me a little of a group like Tortoise, but slowed right down, with rhythm replaced with a study of bass-heavy overtones and an overall sense of claustrophobic maybe even oppressive drone. The theme follows into the second piece, with some variation, but the third track, which takes up the whole of the reverse side is a very different affair. Here we are presented with a dark, murky, field of straining grey abstraction, sprinkled with bits of clatter and with Ilios’ oscillators cranked up (or down) to such a degree that the throbbing pulses seem to crack up into an almost mechanical sounding rattle. It all remains low key but with so much happening at almost subsonic levels. At low volume it feels like the calm after the verve of the opening pieces, but turn the dial a little and the room begins to shake.
The second disc, named Yap Divoce then continues the pattern of mixing understated drones with more dramatic passages. The opening Ãœlvi BorzadÃ¡s might be the most beautiful piece in the set, more virtually stagnant tones undermined by hard to identify abrasions and the slightest of tonal patches. Its followed immediately by Sunn O))) meets Bach at one third speed though, a deeply morose if consistently tuneful piece named Moniman. The other side matches two similar tracks again, one subsonic and empty, the other darkly melodic.
Disc three, titled Dis Koraci continues in a similar vein, the opening Grad being a monolithic stream of intense bowed chords that really overpowers the listener. The following Dis Kumi is then contrastingly low-key but with plenty enough going on under the bonnet to keep my speakers trembling on their stands here. The pattern is broken slightly on the last side of Spiriti though as the brittle pulse that opens the track is pushed backwards by a thick, syrupy sinetone that into which we suddenly hear traces of more familiar sounds, first an aircraft can be heard, maybe then dogs barking and we question if we really heard it or was it just an illusory effect caused by the layering of tones. As the music drifts into what sounds a bit like a diesel engined bus engine ticking over in a resonant tunnel other sounds appear, maybe water dripping in a damp space, then traffic. Are these sounds there or does the music play tricks on our ears? They are there, but the almost hallucinatory effect of the droning throbs leads you to wonder what we are really experiencing. The closing Koraci is then a rousing, bold piece akin to the track that opened the entire set, but with a sense of grandeur and magnitude that is fitting for the close of such a bold statement of a release.
I don’t think I know of anything else quite like Spiriti. It shifts severely away from improvised music, but also contains an awful lot more than just any old drone album. Its a really physical, viscous set of music, a study in low frequencies and how they interplay when forced into different, often surprising circumstances. This is completely uncategoriseable music that could appeal to a very wide audience as it touches on so many different areas, but it will only be released in an edition of 280 copies, so, if like me you want a copy then it might be a case of getting orders in quite quickly. Extraordinary.