Wednesday, September 30, 2020
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Artist: Andrew Pekler (@)
Title: Tristes Tropiques
Format: LP
Label: Faitiche (@)
Rated: *****
One of those artists I appreciated a lot when they started their discography that I had no news about is Andrew Pekler. I admit I still like listening to its debut "Station To Station" (2002), the debut he signed for ~scape, the label by Stefan Beltke (better known as Pole) through which my ears firstly met Jan Jelinek's sound as well. It's pretty nice to see Andrew's return on Jan's imprint Faitiche many years after I got reached by their sonorities almost at the same time, even if Andrew's signature for Faitiche already appeared as the director of "Sonne = Blackbox", the amazing collection of stuff by Ursula Bogner, an unknown German pharmacist, musician and housewife, whose fantastic music was published posthumously after Jan met his son by chance (don't understate a John Doe delivering your letters or the flyers of some poisoning new BBQ or pizza parlors, as you should expect the unexpected by pretty unknown people...). An explanatory interview to Andrew by Jan got attached to the introduction and within the booklet of this release, whose main interesting aspect is the way by which Andrew declensed the concept of 'exotica' - an 'umbrella' label to define the style that begun spreading in the late 50ies by the integration of exotic elements, which was mostly related to that "ersatz tropicalism" that persuaded many composers to combine lush orchestration and instruments from Far East, Oceania, Polynesia or Hawaii. A quotation by French anthropologist and structuralist philosopher Claude Levi-Strauss's 'Tristes tropiques' - a multidisciplinary essay/memoir, embodying the 'detached vision' of tropical places (mostly Brasil in this travelogue) by an anthropologist searching connection between seemingly distant cultures - is the framework of Andrew's sonic artifact: "For mile after mile the same melodic phrase rose up in my memory. I simply couldn’t get free of it. Each time it had a new fascination for me. Initially imprecise in outline, it seemed to become more and more intricately woven, as if to conceal from the listener how eventually it would end. The weaving and reweaving became so complicated that one wondered how it could be unravelled; and then suddenly one note would resolve the whole problem, and the solution would seem yet more audacious than the procedures which had preceded, called for, and made possible its arrival; when it was heard, all that had gone before took on new meaning, and the quest, which had seemed arbitrary, was seen to have prepared the way for this undreamed-of solution. Was that what travel meant? An exploration of the deserts of memory, rather than those around me?". Andrew seems to push the boundaries of this detachment by a bizarre and very nice choice: besides reviewing the genre by micro-electronic patterns, chirping tunes and sonic hooks that sound tropical, the eight tracks (some of them actually group different tracks together) got often grasped by totally fake field recordings so that it seems to render the funhouse mirror-like artificiality of that exotic distorted vision without substantially altering its inner fascination. In Andrew's words: "As a listener and as a musician, exotica music of the 1950s and 60s has always been a constant reference point and inspiration. And perhaps my listening has been ‘ruined’ by exotica, but as I have dug deeper into ethnographic archives of ‘traditional’ music, I’ve come to the realization that all recordings that evoke, allude to, or ostensibly document other musical forms have a similar effect on my imagination: I am most intrigued when I perceive some coincidentally familiar element within the foreign (a tuned percussion recital from Malawi that immediately brings to mind Steve Reichian minimalism or the Burundian female vocal duet that sounds uncannily like a cut-up tape experiment, etc.). I suppose this album is an attempt to recreate the same kind of listening experience as what I’ve described, just with the electronic means that I have at hand". The "sadness" (if we have to quote album title) of Andrew's tropicalism could be something closer to the awareness of a justifiably depressed clerk after a trip in some 'wild' place after the impact against the common rites of its ordinary "life".


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