Michel Banabila‘s 36 year career (his first release was Marilli, in 1983) has known many surprises. Many unexpected turns and genre-crossovers made him hard to pinpoint in one specific area, but also became a trademark of his versatility.
I’m not going to repeat too many details here: you can just search his name here on this blog to see quite a few of his releases recommended.
In recent years, Banabila moved toward more abstract experimental electronics. He has collaborated with many artists with whom he co-created the music, or who delivered fragments and sample parts that Banabila used to further create his music with.
When collaborating with violinist Oene van Geel in 2014 (for Music For Viola And Electronics), a seed was planted: the desire to create arrangements for a more acoustic ensemble.
This album is the (first?) culmination of that wish – the music is performed by a remarkable ‘ensemble’ of guest musicians: Peter Hollo (cello), Alex Haas (synth, electronics), Gareth Davis (bass clarinet), Oene van Geel (viola, stroh violin), Stijn Hüwels (guitar, electronics) and Gulli Gudmundsson (electric bass, double bass and e-bow). Of course, Banabila himself also contributes to this (midi instruments, sampling and electronics) – but his main role is the creator/director of this ‘ensemble music’ he wanted to make for many years.
And so, Uprooted marks yet another important direction in Michel Banabila‘s already impressive catalogue.
I don’t know if I would have recognised this as a Banabila project if this had been presented anonymously and without context. Mainly because the overall sound is so very different from his earlier work.
But gradually, I started to recognise some of his musical trademarks. Which is also true for the creative process: the compositions a result of extensively manipulating the sampled material.
It’s authentic ‘Banabila’ music but with a different instrumentation that sounds like they are, or could be, performed live. Which, according to Michel is not exactly the case:
“From these five tracks, only the first (Dragonfly) can actually be performed live; the others consist of so many edits and treatments that they are more like a ‘sketch’, a sketch of a possible new future for me, an atmosphere or genre where acoustic instruments and electronics melt together.”
I’m not entirely sure, but I guess the ‘ensemble’ is a virtual collective who never met each other to play together during the creation of this album. The middle part of Collector, for example, “feels like Oene, Gareth and Peter are reacting to each other but nothing was played live or even on the same track.”
Knowing this, it is even more amazing to hear how ‘organic’ the compositions sound. I can still imagine them being performed live by this ensemble collective (and I really hope that we’ll live to see this happen sometimes in the future)!
The music itself is hard to categorize: there are elements of improvisation, parts that sound ‘composed’, ‘post-classical’, with many elements referring to ‘ambient’ soundscapes.
But ‘uncategorizable’ is how we have come to know and appreciate Banabila‘s work.
In the liner notes for this album, Marc Weidenbaum uses the word ‘orchestral’ and I think that word simply covers this exciting new direction in Banabila’s musical path – a promising venture into new territories! (Peter van Cooten)