Saturday, 28 September 2019
Gabriel Pereira Spurr & Yoshiwaku - Dawn of the Damned
Album: Dawn of the Damned
Artist: Gabriel Pereira Spurr & Yoshiwaku
Label: Head Handmade Tapes
Catalogue no: HHT4
1. Fire Mass
2. Dance of the Damned
3. Gaping Face
4. Unblock Stream
5. Tame the Rhythm
6. Forgotten Prophecy
In spite of the album title, it has nothing to with zombies, fictional horror, or George Romero: instead this six-tracker was inspired by an Algerian anti-colonialist documentary called L’Aubes des Damnés, produced in 1966 and directed by Ahmed Rachedi. Should you wish to view the film as an adjunct to the album it’s available on Youtube (https://youtu.be/K-HeN3PP5kI) – bear in mind it’s in French with French subtitles, however you can set it to auto-translate into English through the settings icon. If you’re interested, here’s some further information on the Algerian War of Independence and its causes - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algerian_War.
The question here of course is how does all this translate into the music contained on here? As far as ‘Fire Mass’ is concerned we get a grinding, whining mass of industrial noise accompanied by samples (in French, of course) interjecting over it all, which I am assuming have been taken directly from the documentary. If nothing else it tells of unrest and dissatisfaction, of a building wall of opposition against French rule and exploitation. I know that after WW2 the Muslim population of Algeria started making their demands for independence clear, a situation which eventually led to the War of independence.
‘Dance of the Damned’ takes the theme further, complete with grainy noise, dentist’s drill squeals, and a languid bass/guitar fuzzed beat, over which mildly distorted vocals intone. Despite its noise leanings, it’s still more than reminiscent of North African music, especially with its muezzin calling the faithful to prayer stylings and the use of what sounds like native instrumentation, bringing to mind thoughts of lost cultures and ways of life that were ruined by the introduction of European ‘civilisation’. I use that word civilisation advisedly and in single quotes: at times, it was often difficult to tell who the barbarian was and who the civilised. ‘Gaping Face’ graces us with more vocals, this time soaring heavenwards, along with samples of a woman’s voice while the backing music leans more towards the noise ambient end of the genre spectrum. It shimmers and rings clearly, mesmerising and hypnotic, swaying and sashaying with the slithery sinuousness of a snake across hot sand. More industrial electronics and samples coalesce to create the next track ‘Unblock Stream’, accompanied by distorted and fuzzed up electronic drones and expansive synthesiser tones, which, akin to living things, twist and squirm around and against each other, biting and suffocating, a mass of snakes wrapping each other in death grips, one intent on killing the other. It’s descriptive of a country fighting against itself or, more accurately, a country rebelling against its masters.
More industrial shimmeriness, noisy ambience, samples, and power tool sounds join together to produce the penultimate entry on the menu, ‘Tame the Rhythm’. The rhythm being talked about here, I would venture, is the rhythm tending to all-out war, the restive beat of a drum of rebellion against the forces of colonial oppression. This is the pushback by the authorities. By turns, it’s chaotic, rambling, unstructured, and monolithic, perhaps that point between the end of one state of stasis and the dawning of another state of stasis. At others, even amongst all the randomicity and chaos a sense of equilibrium can be discerned; for instance, at one point a stringed instrument of some species filters through, suggesting that, at least in some parts, a semblance of normality still pertains. That even in the midst of turmoil and upheaval, there will be some who will maintain the life they’ve always lived even while the rest of country gets swallowed up by a bloody war.
‘Forgotten Prophecy’ serves up distorted noise ambient, very much in the style of ‘traditional’ Algerian music, along with some reverberating ambient acoustic guitar counterpoints, perhaps an indication that the storm has passed over and the light of peace is at last beginning to shine on the horizon. The darkness of unjust oppression and suppression is starting to be dispelled, and a brand new beginning is about to be embarked upon. However, there’s still a long way to go, as people loyal to the losing side are still attempting to disrupt the inevitable, trying to hold back the tide of history for as long as possible. The old order is on the point of complete collapse, staggering and stuttering its way until it can either somehow regain a footing or find a way out before taking any further damage. However it plays out, the Algerians will get what they want, and take back their country.
An interesting project by all accounts, taking an abstruse historical event that most of us are still completely ignorant about, but only one part of a greater movement that swept through other colonies in the quest to gain their own independence in the wake of WW2. India gained their independence from Britain in 1948, for instance, and the subsequent throwing off the shackles of colonial rule in Africa throughout the following decades, individual country by individual country. Although this release chooses to focus on Algeria, the same narrative can be applied to many other countries seeking self-determination. It’s a curious mixture of noisiness and ambience, perhaps a way of showing the delicate balances of power existing within any country, be it the colonised or the coloniser. However, in our world of (relative) stability, it’s difficult to imagine what a war of independence is like. Gabriel Pereira Spurr & Yoshiwaku’s sound essay will, perhaps, help to rectify that.
Issued in a very limited edition of 18 cassettes, of which only 9 are currently available, as well as a download – order here:
Psymon Marshall 2019.