HERE and NOW: Sound Years
Sound Years is a mix curated by Dutch musician Michel Banabila from recordings created variously for stage productions, documentaries, soundtracks and other releases from the previous 11 years. As you can see, it was released in a quiver inducing vinylophiles pleasure-dream - a clear platter of sound exploration. The Bandcamp link above takes you to an edit of the release.
I enjoy Michel's music for it's imaginative panoramas which are enhanced by his engagement with avant and sound art methodology. Michel is a master of experimental ambient and this is where he excels. Exterior environments/field recordings are integral to many of his works. Musique concréte too. This exploratory aspect of his work is tempered by his inclusion of jazz, blues, African, Indian/Asian, classical/opera and other popular forms. Through these methodologies, he creates intriguing musical hybrids that, I feel, expand the musical traditions he utilises into original and unique soundworlds. I feel he is at the forefront of unalienating avant and creating more accessible approaches, that welcome the unfamiliar listener, rather than estrange them.
The A-side opens with a previously unreleased track Close To the Moon. It's the kind of track that makes Michel's music so likeable, sounds are often tweaked through processing, creating aural hallucinates of the original sound. Oblique familiarity creating intrigue. An arcane vocal burbles. Tricked strike sound akin to a tabla floop. Acoustic guitar motif intone, slowly, calmly at the deeper end of the scale. Organ like keys cycle. Frog click. Ebow glissandi ring. I'm hearing things in a different light - odd combinations of sound source that here, are entirely plausible. A poignant piano motif enters and leaves. The vocal samples return more assertively. Harmonium like drone billows. And a silence. Another movement unfolds. More silences amidst forest sound flowering the mix. Nursery song and noise. For a moment, I glimpse a meeting between the Müm and Eno's Apollo. It closes where a recurring theme throughout this first side has ebbed and flowed - the human voice. In particular it features a sample from Michels 47 Voice Loops release, created for an installation that melded subtlety with complexity.
The B-Side is a kind of aural film. Further out sound-art explorations and compositional technique are to the fore here and in places I'm reminded of Daedelus and DJ Spooky - it has a more cut-up/mixologist feel. Four of the songs featured are lifted from the Hilarious Exhibition and Gardening albums, both which really mirror the musical approach on this side. Frequent collaborators musician/sound-artist Machinefabriek and violinist/improvisor/composer Oene van Geel both share moments on this side too. Their inclusion reinforces the avant and "orchestral" feels present here. In the closing moments of the B-side there is a return to similar musical themes from the A-side through Yarra, from the memorable 2013 release, Travelog. It features a lovely Bayaka like cooing warble. It closes on a poignant piano melody.
In all, Sound Years is a great way to traverse a decade or so of Michel's ouevre. (Perry Holt)