AMBIENTBLOG: Just Above The Surface
Some artists have a release rate that almost exceeds my listening speed. Michel Banabila is one of those. His name appears so often on this blog that you might think that I recommend all of his releases. Which, in fact, I do! Because very few artists have such a high output rate while maintaining such a high quality level and musical versatility!
Just Above The Surface, his latest release, is released almost casually, unannounced. It is a digital only release, which is an understandable choice at this time – but I feel a bit sorry for those that treasure all things physical… this music deserves to be available on a less ethereal level. Because of the music, but also because of the stunning cover artwork by Gerco de Ruijter.
(Writing this I realise that this sounds as if music that is released in digital format only is less ‘important’ than that on a physical release. Which of course is not the case or at least it shouldn’t be).
There are six long tracks (most around 9 minutes) and a (shorter) closing track which is taken from a Disquiet community release dedicated to Bassel Khartabil (coder and open-source advocate from Syria, imprisoned and executed). With the exception of the last track, the material for this album was created with parts and fragments made for a live performance.
Banabila’s flawless wide-screen production is created with the help of some friends he worked with before (Oene van Geel, viola, Salar Asid, violin). As far as I know it is the first time that Gareth Davis adds his bass clarinet sound to Banabila’s music: on the shuddering opener The Ripple Effect. Martin Barski adds tape sound on Tapes and Polaroids in the 21st Century (great title!)
It is fascinating how easily Banabila navigates between different kinds of styles and moods, even within the span of one single track. From emotional, melancholic to abstract experimental, from subdued calm to a threatening tribal rhythm that makes your palms sweat. And the transitions never sound forced.
Why is it that Banabila is honored by critics and connoisseurs, but after many years of hard work still has such a hard time reaching a larger audience?
What is wrong with the music business??