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V/A – Beyond Ignorance And Borders

V/A - Beyond Ignorance And Borders

CD, Syrphe, 2007

Maybe I’m just getting jaded, but… When you put a couple of scientifically-precise breakcore tracks on a compilation with lots of soundscape pieces, the soundscapes have a hard time doing well from the comparison. Most of this compilation consists of atonal compositions ranging from noise to analog bleeps to found sounds. However the really outstanding artists to my mind are Cliquetpar, who attacks a pop melody with the savage skill of a Venetian Snares or Kid 606, and Skorfuse, whose deftness of touch hints at a life spent playing video games. Putting both of these frenetic artists near the start may have been a bad move too.
Although this compilation is a showcase of artists from Africa, the Middle East and Asia, many of the tracks sound a little generic and don’t really connect the listener with their origins. Perhaps this is crass ethnic stereotyping on my part, like expecting British electronica to sound like Stock, Aitken and Waterman — V/Vm notwithstanding — or insisting that German noise ought to contain marching and shouting. But I can’t help thinking that the acts who make reference to identifiable local musics are much more memorable than those who sound like yet another international noise band. Kalimayat and Li Chi Sung, for example, both make use of recordings of traditional singing. Sung contributes two, one based I think around Mongolian throat singing and sounding distressingly physical, and one using the religious percussion and voices of Tibet.
The subtlest and best example though comes from Half a Moment, who lets a ritualistic drumbeat resonate ominously through layers of ambience, whispered words and North African chanting. Ironically, the most folksy, traditional track is the only one featuring Belgian curator C-drik, with Khamsuane Vongthomkhan from Laos and an improvised stringed instrument akin to a banjo or something. Which is… Lovely if you like banjos, but not much else is going on. This suggests to me that C-drik himself understood the exotic allure of foreign sounds set in a contemporary experimental context. But didn’t quite get the balance right.


— Andrew Clegg

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