Lebanon to Rotherham via Romania

Music is a funny old thing isn’t it? Look it up in any dictionary and you’ll find definitions including such vague terms as harmony, rhythm, pitch and melody… but is it all that simple? Surely music is simply a collection of noises that are pleasing to the ear of the listener? We all have our own subjective notions of what constitutes good examples of this strange artistic expression as well as bad ones and these are sometimes so far apart that we might as well be comparing two entirely different art forms.

The most common responses elicited from people when inadvertently exposed to some of my more outré tastes are as follows; “That’s not music, it’s just noise”, “The vocals are in a foreign language, how can you enjoy it if you don’t understand it?” (I could probably go on for much longer here but I’ll stick with these two for the sake of brevity). The pair of recently issued albums below are perfect examples of music which might evoke both of these expressions and despite/because of them are utterly fantastic;

Rabih Beaini – Albidaya

An incredible LP of exploratory electronics flickering with traces of psychedelic rock, free jazz and kosmiche music by Lebanese producer Rabih Beaini who now resides in Berlin. It could honestly have been released at any point over the last half century and holds no clear indicators as to its country of origin. Beaini coaxes an impressive palette of sounds from his array of vintage analogue synths adding sax, drums and other conventional instruments throughout.

Maples and Rocks initially pits a wailing saxophone barrage against a reedy electronic drone and then closes out as an extended organ improvisation accompanied by a wheezy drum machine. The sax returns in the closing stages before fading out to silence making the track’s eight minute running time feel far too short. Kessara3 is a beautifully loose jam featuring drums and an atonal synth figure whilst Song of Extreme Happiness manages to conjure up the best sounds of all the early Berlin School LPs in its opening few minutes.

 Rabih Beaini Albidaya

Rodion G.A. – The Lost Tapes

A compilation of unreleased material recorded between 1978 & 1983 by Romanian enigma Rodion Ladislau Rosca who, despite recording prolifically for almost two decades only saw a couple of tracks issued by the State-owned Electrecord label. Rosca employed an arsenal of  early electronic equipment to create these tracks but also modified his own synths to expand their limited capabilities. He also experimented extensively with various recording techniques using a number of reel to reel recorders to achieve multitracking. This LP is a prime example of what can be created from such basic components and once again sounds wonderfully isolated in terms of geography and chronology.

Salt features soaring synth lines, guitar and a brief vocal dub toward the end of the track. Disco Mania sounds more like something from the New York No Wave scene with its chunky two note guitar riff, primitive drums and cut up vocals. But the track I keep playing on repeat is Imagini Din Vis which begins with heavily treated vocals and guitar before launching into full blown psych/prog rock mode underpinned by a deliciously groovy breakbeat.

Rodion G A The Lost Tapes

And there you have it, two highly recommended albums from completely different locations and time zones. I’m not in any better position to give a definitive conclusion to my earlier question regarding the nature of music but my life is certainly a better place after listening to these LPs whilst pondering the conundrum. I suggest you seek them out for yourselves, put your preconceptions to one side and let your own ears decide.

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