SONOMU.NET : Precious Images
Unfolding Michel Banabila´s Precious Memories is like opening up an old chest filled with old wind-up toys and brightly-wrapped candies. You want to bury both arms up to the elbow, pulling out one trinket after the other to play with, admire, or slowly savour before moving on to the next. Subtitled ”Datafiles 1999-2008”, this double omnibus includes tracks selected from all his releases on Dutch label Steamin´ Soundworks beginning in 1999. He is a man of many genres, or perhaps more correctly, he is trans-genre, for there seems to be no particular base from which he prefers to work. He just composes. And collaborates eagerly, to the listener´s delight.
The first disc displays a range that is giddily eclectic and includes a few clunky little pieces that could have served as interludes on a latter-day Tom Waits record (”Wonderful Mistakes”, ”Sorokin Blues”, ”One for the Road”), a song in collaboration with Moroccoan Sufi singer Bahia El Idrissi, a hyperreal tribal dance ("Do Something About It!"), edgy electro-funk (”Heavy Gravity”) and a groovy bit of space age bachelor pad jazz showcasing Eric Vloeimans´ trumpet (”Damned”). Some of the programmed rhythms will remind you of Brian Eno´s ”Another Green World ” or ”Nerve Net”, like ”A Strong Sense of Urgency”. Central to most of the pieces is the human voice, often dozens of them threaded together to create a kind of dada poetry. What unites them all is the way Banabila tweaks and crafts them just enough to defy expectations. Take for example the slow and laidback late night jazz session ”A Virtual Meeting”, with muted trumpet,bass clarinet and fleet-fingered piano cruising prettily above quiet squonks and squeeks.
A perfectly executed hybrid. Although Banabila appears to relish combining the digital with the acoustic, there are some nice, purely electronic pieces featured as well, like ”Low Pulse + High Noiz”. There is little on the first disc you could call "ambient", except perhaps the two pieces which conclude it, in particlar the beautiful ”Voiz Recycled”, with its smattering of Jon Hassell-like horn, that I would happily hear extended far beyond its eight-and-a-half minutes.
Disc two contains music made for television and theatre in 2008. Banabila claims not only to be inspired by photography, video, film and theatre, but also to ”think” in terms of transforming visual impression into sound. Perhaps necessarily, most of the pieces featured here do not have the strong personalities of many of the tracks on its sister disc, since they were intended to complement a foreground. But there are moments when the music is too engrossing to merely take in passively. The sweet meanderings of ”Migrations” is an exciting musical journey that could very well represent a trip around the globe or at least reflect how the globe is setting up shop in and influencing Europe. It´s a true mongrel and all the more loveable for it. Another attention-grabber, "Ears Tell Us Where We Are in Space", showcases Dutch guitarist Anton Goudsmit and is hauntingly introspective, with a slight Jaco Pastorius patina.
The album ends with a slow ambient descent beginning with ”Night”, continuing with ”Crime Scene” – hardboiled noir again featuring the sensitive, muted monochromes of Vloeimans - and the dark ”A Moody Guy´s Audible Dream” with Polish electronics wiz Zenial. As an introduction to the work of Michel Banabila it is laudable. As a retrospective over his recent career, it is something for him to be very proud of.