V/A ~ Anthology of Post Industrial Music From Balkan Region

Unexplained Sounds’ wonderful world exploration continues with a visit to the Balkan region.  The series is now up to either six or seven, depending on whether one counts Visions of Darkness, which is lacking the “Anthology” tag but was part of the first bundle to be offered.  An earlier incarnation of this release was the digital-only Balkan experimental survey – Post industrial culture series, but the new series appears on disc and includes digital bonuses.  There are still a few Sound Mapping bundles available for a great price, featuring the last six and including the current release as well as the Indonesian installment, released earlier this year.

One must be in the mood to listen to these Balkan sounds ~ I had to wait for an overcast day to review it.  The drones are thick and oppressive, but also – when primed to receive them – majestic.  Cadlag’s opening track “θ(x,µ0)(L)=inf{t-0X.(x,µ0),L t” (good luck requesting that at a radio station) is fuzzed, filled, and immersive.  In the wrong mindset, one might feel that this and other tracks reflect the horrible buzzing inanity of news and politically-produced anxiety, all building up in the head and demanding trepanning.  But in the right mindset, one feels liberated, as the listener controls the volume and can use it to drown out everything else, including one’s own thoughts (and no messy cleanup for the relatives).  A multi-band act, Cadlag is a perfect choice to provide the overture.  The two pieces from Slovenia’s Ontervjabbit follow suit, both taken from the double cassette Torture Garden, which we reviewed back in 2018 in our annual Haunted Houses feature.  We share the mindset of Unexplained Sounds, hoping to draw new attention to deserving yet under-publicized acts.

While drone is the underlying force of these pieces, the “post-industrial” tag fits as well.  Many of the works recall the classic experiments of artists on the sadly defunct Cold Meat Industries.  With titles such as “Torture Garden” and “Slit My Own Throat,” one might be led to assume that these selections are without brightness, but on the contrary, the artists delve into bleakness in order to rescue slivers.  Imagine a prisoner in a dungeon, able to see only a minute of sunlight each day, and indirectly ~ but what that minute might mean.

We were especially excited to hear the digital bonus tracks (not found on the earlier version) from KSVLKSV, Omari, iuli a.m. & Atouck (the latter also appearing separately), Başar Ünder, Alone in the Hollow Garden (with a 17-minute track!), Marija Sumarac, Nava Spatiala (who had a different track in the prior incarnation) and adarcah.  Some of these are more subdued than the tracks on the disc, and they work well as an invisible second disc.  Marija Sumarac’s piece is even rhythmic.  But at the end, Romania’s Nava Spatiala demolishes all good intentions with the abrasion of “Moratile Canopsol Peltinarium,” restoring the project’s dark equilibrium.

The Balkan region has been home to many ghost and horror stories, none as disturbing as the region’s actual history, which includes genocide and other real-life terror.  Ask not why these artists make the sort of music they do; ask how this music has kept them going.  Even the worst of the 2020 pandemic is nothing compared to what they have experienced.  We may shy from corrosive music, but it often bears valuable lessons of endurance under pressure.  (Richard Allen)

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