If rays of sunlight were continuous lines, they would converge at the core of the sun. But considering the great distance between the Sun and Earth, sun rays can more or less be considered parallel from a human perspective. Ancient Greek philosopher Eratosthenes used this premise to prove that the Earth is round (by observing that rays of sunlight hit the Earth at different angles depending on location, which means the Earth’s surface can’t be flat assuming the rays are all parallel). From a humanitarian perspective, the implications of a round Earth shape our existence– we are all together on a single finite sphere, limited by its confines and united by its cohesion. Mehmet Aslan explores this idea of global identity on his debut LP The Sun Is Parallel. Aslan is the perfect man for the job– having been born in Switzerland to Turkish parents and now residing in Berlin, he has connections to three major junctions of international culture.
The album’s first couple tracks are foreboding and industrial. Uptempo “Rowndbass Acid” serves as a chaser, though it may only be accessible in contrast, perhaps most appealing to a regular Berlin techno raver. Still, it’s light enough for any casual listener to appreciate the punchy beat. The “Rowndbass” party comes to a sudden halt though, as “If I Can Belong Anywhere” creeps in slowly and hauntingly. A section of tribal sounding drums emerges, segueing into a sample of a James Baldwin speech. “Everyone you see is also you,” Baldwin declares, conjuring Eastern ideas of the continuity of all life and consciousness. Baldwin goes on as a lugubrious soundscape rises in support. “No one’s ever wanted, really, to be free,” he says.
Niño de Elche wails quiveringly on “Tangerine,” “Los lamentos de un cautivo”– the cries of a captive. This captive certainly appears keen on freedom. He sings of a sea which seems to swallow lives as its waters rise. Are humans the captives, the captors, or both? Intriguingly, “Tangerine Sun” follows “Tangerine,” the former a longer instrumental version of the latter, sounding more desolate as it’s devoid of human voice, like a desert parched by an orange burning sun.
The record is full of eclectic cultural allusions. “Private Soundscape” samples R. Murray Schafer, a Canadian composer known for his study of acoustic ecology– the relationships between sound and the natural environment. “Kakasui” is a reference to an anime character– an environmentalist monk who retreats to the mountains. While internationality is a motif here, the album draws even more attention to a different kind of bond. What unites all of humankind is our planet, our shared reliance on shared resources. The outro returns to James Baldwin’s speech, refraining “Everyone you see is also you,” and thus The Sun is Parallel comes full circle. The end is just the same as the beginning, like a journey around the world. If one walks in a single direction from a point on Earth, one will end up right where one started; proof of the limits of our terrain– so easily and alarmingly overlooked. (Maya Merberg)