Organized Music from Thessaloniki

I watched a bird as it gracefully shifted in flight
and set down on the head of a garden gnome
you shouted out a warning from across the grassy plain
oh, how I wished it was more inviting

[passage found in a personal notebook circa 2006]

Ferran Fages - For Pau Torres

Ferran Fages, whose work I'm only familiar with because of a three-way collab I reviewed a while back (also on Thessaloniki), returns with a solo release of electric guitar and walkie-talkie music. Fages, it appears, utilizes walkie-talkies here more as feedback units, that give an added weight to the tonal sections that bookend the piece. The focus here, however, is on the guitar, which is used in a minimalistic melodic fashion at times, while at other times as a generator of high and low-end ambience. During the former, Fages crawls around the fret board, though mostly picks and strums the strings slowly, resulting in a kind of molasses-paced meditation on the instrument, and a very controlled one at that.

While the mid section is reminiscent of the soundtrack work of Neil Young – I'm thinking Dead Man – the work as a whole reveals a pointillist intent that only a minimalist composer would have. I'd hate for this to be filed as background music, as it's clear Fages put much thought into the form: its blunt yet seamless transitions, and very visually transcribable progression. I love this work; it amazed me in its near fatal simplicity and ability to captivate for over 40 minutes, while simultaneously not relying on constantly switching gears to achieve that captivation.

Unan / Nikos Kyriazopoulos - Mimus /Skua

Nice to see and hear a new (pink!) tape release from Thessaloniki. Here we have a split album from the likes of the mysterious Unan project and a musician named Nikos Kyriazopoulos, who both created pieces that are responses to the subject of bird song. Unan's "Mimus" occupies the A side, tumbling its way through a variety of styles not unnatural to the label. The music is a definite odd-ball mix of sound, presented as a series of short recordings that range from scrambled tape musings to retrograde bird recordings to blistering electronics and more. The way that low and high-fi sounds are layered and the intriguing din that Unan is able to produce is worth repeated listens alone, but there's much more to like here as well. I felt that some of the better sections could have gone on for longer, as there is a slight tendency for cutting things a little short. However, the piece, while being an outright bizarre accumulation of noises, has much lasting quality to it.

Kyriazopoulos's side begins as what sounds like pure jumbled electronics, not unlike what cutting-up and mixing R2D2's voice might sound like – and not really anything like birds either. Eventually things settle and more of the underlying texture starts to take over, the busy foreground taking a back seat. This work becomes far more alluring as it evolves, and I think it would be easy to dismiss it right from the beginning. Not bad, doesn't quite have the appeal of Unan's side, though an interesting take on the bird song nonetheless, through a spastic lens of musique-concrete stylings.

Unan - Mimus (extract) by ScrapyardForecast

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