Press // The Imaginary Soundscapes // A Way Out By Knowing Smile

THE IMAGINARY SOUNDSCAPES is the electronic version of a meeting between STÉPHANE RIVES, who following his early 2010 solo project, Islets of Memories, uses re-worked samples from his discography, mixed with recordings from his daily life and sound environment, and FRÉDÉRIC NOGRAY, who returns to his early research on feedback, here caused and moderated in real time by three effects pedals, oscillating between minimalism and psychedelia.

A WAY OUT BY KNOWING SMILE is the first recorded collaboration between Rives and Nogray, and is released by the Ruptured label.


Saxophone player Stéphane Rives is best known for his sine wave playing of said instrument, whereas Frédéric Nogray may seem a new name. He plays effect pedals here, whereas Rives limits himself to laptop […] In his laptop Rives [disposes of] samples of his discography, which he reworks in this recording, made in June 2010 in Beirut […] The piece is divided in two parts, both called ‘A Way Out By Knowing Smile’ […] [The music seems to be] generated through improvisation, but it doesn’t actually sound like it. It’s an excellent work of low humming […] sine wave-like sounds, which are cleverly woven together into some highly sensitive, concentrated bits of music […] A fine work, I’d say, with some great intensity and sounding like an improvisation of composed materials, or perhaps a composition of improvised parts […] Great work!
(Franz de Waard in Vital Weekly)


Review // Joseph Ghosn & Charbel Haber // Between Birthdays Cassette

In June 2011, my musician and writer friend Joseph Ghosn spent a few days in Beirut. We met on a couple of occasions, spoke about the abandoned grand piano in his neighbor’s house in the Lebanese mountains, and the CD compilation I was planning to release later in August, which included a track of his recorded for Ruptures. He also gave me this tape. “You’re the one to get it,” he said. Joe has a fetish for tapes, and he knows I do too. “What is it,” I exclaimed, trying to refrain my enthusiasm. “Oh, just a little thing Charbel and I recorded in one week, a few years back. Listen to it.”

I have listened to it many times since then. Between Birthdays consists of one elongated drone, a musical dialogue between Ghosn and guitar player-extraordinaire Charbel Haber, incorporating fuzzy swathes of guitar and discreet layers of glitchy synthesizers. It’s difficult to tell who’s doing what. The piece meanders wonderfully, veers from instrumental post-rock to ambient electronica, recalls Oneohtrix Point Never on some occasions, opts for pure noise on other occasions… A shadowy voice speaks a few detached words, a synth line recalls Joseph Ghosn’s soundtrack for the film “Beyrouth”… And the drone fades into oblivion once, twice, before picking up again. The stuff that dreams are made of (for).


Press // The Ruptured Sessions Vol. 3

The Ruptured Sessions Volume 3 is a CD compilation gathering some of Beirut’s most talented pop, rock and funk musicians, with tracks recorded live in the studios of Radio Lebanon 96.2FM. It was released on June 8, 2011.

This compilation features exclusive tracks by:
Fareeq el Atrash
Intensive Care
Eileen Khatchadourian
Lazzy Lung
Mashrou’ Leila
Sandmoon
White Trees


Review // Alan Bishop & Sam Shalabi // Sharjah Biennial 10

[18 March 2011]

As one third of Sun City Girls, Alan Bishop is one of the towering figures of the American musical underground of the last 30 years, and his musical output knows very few boundaries, whether in his solo guise as Alvarius B., or through the global releases of the Sublime Frequencies label, which he’s operated since 2003. Sam Shalabi is a key musician in Montreal’s experimental scene, with Egyptian roots and a decisively warped approach to music-making. He is best known as a founding member of the Shalabi Effect quartet, and appears regularly in various free improv and avant-rock ensembles. Shalabi recently founded Land Of Kush, an intriguing orchestra inspired by the Egyptian big-bands of the 60’s and 70’s, which has released two records to date.

Sam Shalabi and Alan Bishop are old friends, but their delirious piece for Plot for a Biennial, the music section of Sharjah’s 10th Biennial, saw them collaborating for the first time. Prior to this evening’s performance, the two musicians had spent several weeks in Sharjah in order to record ambient soundscapes and impregnate themselves with the mood of the city. The resulting performance integrated pre-recorded sound fragments, live playing (Shalabi on electric guitar and oud, Bishop on amplified acoustic guitar), and Bishop’s inevitable and riotous ranting and raving.

Bishop spent the first few minutes of the set walking among the seated audience, hiding his face behind a scarf and sporting a colorful umbrella, while Shalabi triggered the electronic soundscapes and improvised on guitar. Bishop eventually climbed on stage, at which point proceedings took on a more dramatic turn — in the Shakespearean sense of the word. Standing behind a cluttered table, he relied on various objects (a torchlight, a portable radio, menus for local restaurants, artist catalogues, to name but these) to deliver a captivating spoken-word “routine”, adeptly mixing deadpan humor, vaudeville, and hilarious assessments of the Sharjah milieu. T-shirts decorated with the sentence “E = Tahrir Square” were blasted towards the audience; dog yelps and various animal sounds were emitted; and Stevie Wonder, playing on the same night in neighboring Abu Dhabi, was saluted sarcastically. The two men ended their hour-long performance with a magnificent improvised duet of oud and acoustic guitar.


[Photos by Ziad Nawfal]

Press // Scrambled Eggs // Peace Is Overrated & War Misunderstood

RUPTURED presents “PEACE IS OVERRATED & WAR MISUNDERSTOOD”
A new album by Lebanese rock band SCRAMBLED EGGS
A collection of previously unreleased songs recorded between 2006 and 2009


[Time Out Beirut, February 2011]

Review // Jeff Martin (Tea Party, The Armada) // The Basement

[31 August 2010]

I stumbled on an archive of old photographs (well, not that old, as they are all digital) while going through my PC desktop at home. Local bands and musicians, foreign musicians playing in Lebanon, etc. Some interesting, most of them serving archival purposes, more than anything else.  I will be posting a selection of those photographs in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, here are some that my friend Salim took during Jeff Martin‘s concert at The Basement, last August. Jeff Martin used to sing with Canadian rockers The Tea Party, sometime during the 1990’s. Quite successfully, I might add; I have fond (listening) memories of a particular album entitled ‘The Edges of Twilight’…

A bit of a surprise, then, that a large part of Martin’s repertoire that night in Beirut consisted of covers, hovering over a large palette of the musical board: Massive Attack, Dead Can Dance, Nine Inch Nails, Joy Division, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Keane (!), and of course Daniel Lanois…


[Photos by Salim Hbeiliny]

 

 

 

Review // Scrambled Eggs // Johnny Kafta’s Kids Menu

[April 2010]

A few hours ago, I caught myself trying to remember the first time I watched Scrambled Eggs perform live, here in Beirut or elsewhere. I couldn’t. Either my memory has started to fail me, or I’ve seen Charbel & co perform so often, and under so many guises, that the performances have merged into one gigantic, noisy blur in my head. Which makes these CD releases that much more vital, and evidently indispensable.

Both of these albums were released in April 2010, during the 10th edition of Irtijal Festival. They are the product of a new label, equipped with a fabulously sleazy logo (see below), entitled ‘Johnny Kafta’s Kids Menu‘. The records mark an intense bout of activity for Scrambled Eggs (a trio of Charbel Haber -guitar-, Tony Elieh -bass-, and Malek Rizkallah -drums-), beginning towards the end of 2008, and extending early into 2009. The tracks were completed in Fadi Tabbal’s Tunefork Studios.

The first of the CD’s consists of sessions recorded with the ‘A’ Trio (Mazen Kerbaj -trumpet-, Sharif Sehnaoui -guitar-, and Raed Yassin -double bass-), comprising two long tracks, epic, dissonant, and sinuous, and a third, shorter, “rockier” ditty, a tribute of sorts to early Japanese animé “Grendizer”. Interesting to hear Yassin, Kerbaj and Elieh scream Arabic insults over noisy, distorted accompaniment. And highly recommended. Also recommended is local Lebanese producer Diamond Setter‘s remix of the title track, “Beach Party at Mirna el Chalouhi”. You can listen to that one here:

http://soundcloud.com/diamond-setter/scrambled-eggs-a-trio-beach-party-at-mirna-el-chalouhi-diamond-setters-whatever-you-want-rework

The 2nd album, “Scrambled Eggs & Friends”, was recorded with various musicians hailing from Beirut’s (and Paris’) experimental scenes, namely Joe Ghosn (laptop & electronics), Abdallah Ko (guitar & electronics), Stéphane Rives (saxophone), Fadi Tabbal (guitar), as well as the aforementioned Kerbaj and Sehnaoui. Here, Scrambled Eggs indulge in newfound musical directions and tangents, far from the regular rock format, and marrying with grand ease experimentation, improvisation, and noise. I love the stuff. And the visuals too (these are by Mazen Kerbaj). Ya 3akarit.


 

Press // The Ruptured Sessions Vol. 2

The Ruptured Sessions Volume 2

A CD compilation gathering some of the most notorious protagonists of Beirut’s experimental music scene, captured live in the studios of Radio Lebanon. “The Ruptured Sessions” is a series of live recordings that take place in the studios of Radio Lebanon 96.2FM, during Ziad Nawfal’s weekly Ruptures program. These recordings focus on musicians from Lebanon’s alternative music scenes (alternative folk & rock, electronica, improvisation, etc.), as well as visiting foreign musicians.

Thomas Millroth is a Swedish writer and art critic. Nowadays he runs the Olof Bright label, alongside Swedish reeds player and improviser Mats Gustafsson. Thomas reviewed volume 2 of CD series The Ruptured Sessions for the very fabulous music blog Soundofmusic, on December 1st, 2010. Unfortunately for readers from this part of the world, Thomas’s review is in Swedish. It’s never too late for a trip to Scandinavia, is what we are thinking.