Thursday 1 March 2018

Just Above The Surface

Listing boats, field recordings, loops, polyrhythms and sonic incantations: Just Above The Surface - Michel Banabila (new album) .

Artwork Gerco de Ruijter.

A CLOSER LISTEN: The title is an inversion of expectations; we’re used to reading the words, “just below the surface.” Sound artist Michel Banabila has been defying classifications for years, and here he does so once again. The irony is that while the attention is drawn to the sounds that lie just above the surface ~ tape noise, viola, bass clarinet ~ there’s still a lot going on just below. Take for example the dolphin noises in “The Ripple Effect” (which we believe to be Gareth Davis, sounding like a dolphin), providing imagery to accompany the track. Tumbling bass and boat samples reflect the ripples while the clarinet imitates the unpredictable nature of the sea. In the final minute, slow drum hits add drama while unexpected melodies emerge from the aether. Gerco D. Ruijter’s cover art is a perfect match for the music. Ruijter’s art finds abstraction in concrete images, typically snapped from above. In this image one might see the aforementioned ripples, but one might also see mountains or frosted plains. The same is true of Banabila’s music. “Snake Bite” features Oene van Geel and Salar Asid on viola and violin. For the first half, it sounds like an elegy until Banabila turns it into a dirge, exposing the dual nature of death and remembrance. The title “Out of Sync” highlights the friction, as loops circle at different speeds, the howls of dogs set against the cries of gulls. Again a breakthrough arrives in the final minute, a sudden synching akin to the saying that even a broken clock is correct twice a day. If we had a year-end list featuring track titles, we’d certainly include “Cassettes and Polaroids in the 21st Century.” Just as a great cover can draw attention to great music, a great title can prompt one to take a spin, especially when the track is instrumental. (In contrast, consider the title “Dreams” – not a Banabila track! – and ask yourself, “Am I curious about that song?”) Before we put the digital needle down, we’re already thinking about lost formats, engaging in pleasant nostalgia while wondering what the piece will sound like. Thanks to Marcin Barski’s contributions, it implies the abraded memories of bygone days. Once again, Banabila revisits the ripple effect, as if the entire project had been recorded on a quiet boat. The waves have died down. Just above the surface, all is calm. (Richard Allen)

Michel Banabila at OCCI, Amsterdam, 2017.

Just Above The Service, 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. 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. (Peter van Cooten)

Gareth Davis

Why isn’t Michel Banabila more famous? This is music which deserves large cinema screens and at least as much press as Nils Frahm and his Erased Tapes cronies! I’ve a few of Banabila’s releases – I came across them through my buddy Rutger Zuyderveldt aka Machinefabriek – very attentive Netherlands sound designer folks the pair of them – and their four albums together. Banabila is more overtly ‘musical’ than Rutger, and these tracks present a nice worldview and warm electronics which you could imagine being on reel to reel tapes. And one thing I like about Michel’s work is that it’s not afraid to be emotional at times… very warm. There’s impressive instrumentation and very good mixing. Listing boats, field recordings, loops, polyrhythms and sonic incantations. I wrote that without even reading the title ‘Just Above The Surface’ and it does what it says. I feel I am following a day, perhaps a few, from boats on surfaces of different depths. It’s as if we start on marsh land with all the rich birdlife and move through passages where we witness – from a distance – activity far out at sea. Can’t always make out the horizons as the album but I’m happy at this surprise release and the journey I’ve been on. Ferry to Holland please (Dr. Chris Dooks)

Ziennik pokładowy = doprawdy straciłem rachubę ile już czasu płyniemy po tych nieznanych człowiekowi wodach. mapy pokładowe od wielu mil zdają się zgodnie rozrysowywać nasze wielkie zagubienie. jaskółczy niepokój koją skutecznie ataki lekkiej agarofobii i przyjemnej maligny słonecznej - błogosławiony udar wielkiego dnia. kapitan nasz, Michel Banabila, wydaje się mieć w tym wszystkim plan specjalny. od początku wędrówki zapętlał wrażenia z prawdziwie marynarskim sznytem, roztaczał wokół chmury dźwiękowych wrażeń, mieszał syntetyczne z prawdziwie organicznym. a wszystko to miksturą doświadczenia, co każe się sobie poddać. i niby leżę w miejscu, lecz kołyszę się coraz śmielej. dryfuję, niemącony życiem, prosto w egzotykę kolejnego Wdechu.

Released January 10, 2018.

All tracks composed & performed by Michel Banabila.

Gareth Davis: bass clarinet on The Ripple Effect.
Additional sampled parts contributed with kind permission by:
Oene van Geel (viola) and Salar Asid (violin) on Snake Bite.
Marcin Barski (tapes) on Cassettes and Polaroids in the 21st Century.

Title of track 4 borrowed with kind permission by Bence Meijer.
Some of the material in this album was originally made for an ableton live performance at the Haperende Mens Festival, Amsterdam, December 2017.

Track 6 added with kind permission of Rupert Lally & Marc Weidenbaum. Source:

1-5 recorded in December 2017, Rotterdam.
6 recorded in August 2017, Rotterdam.
Mastering: Marlon Wolterink / White Noise Studio

This album is a download only.

2018 © Tapu Records / 021TR

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