In dark moments, sometimes the most vital gesture is acknowledging uncertainty and feeling. So as we pass the milestone of one year into the next, I’ll be talking through some mixes alongside our year-end music review.
First, I can’t mention Palestinian artists without pointing to some of the disturbing news this week and an urgent need for action. Electronic musician Sama Abdulhadi is currently detained by the Palestinian Authority after a private streamed event with techno music, a detention that was extended yesterday because, according to a judge, “techno music is not part of Palestinian heritage.” The surreal wrinkle to this story is that the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism had approved the location (and there appear to be internal government disputes over who is in charge).
I’m researching and fact-checking the details of that story, but there are widespread calls for her release and concerns for her well-being. A public petition in English and Arabic is available and friends have told me its information is reliable.
Call for the immediate release of Sama Abdulhadi [change.org]
Do join us if you feel comfortable in that request. I know many Arabic and non-Arabic, Muslim and non-Muslim colleagues feel strongly that international support is needed.
Seeing this development is a reminder of the uneven fairness and freedoms afforded artists around the world. It is humbling; I hope whatever privileges any of us do have we can use to support other artists, and that we listen carefully to their needs and experience.
This particular program is worth highlighting, as it is driven by artists like Palestine’s ODDZ. Exist Palestine for Threads*Radio is creating a fresh platform to connect talented local artists with international music networks – which it goes without saying has been a challenge for that scene:
Exist Palestine brings forward the highly talented local artists and the brightest musical visionaries in the global electronic music scene. Exist seeks to build bridges between international artists, Palestinian sound innovators, the many that have been displaced and musicians who are unable to attend the festival due to politically set restrictions. The lineups consist of artists who participated in Exist Festival 2019 as well as the ones who will be invited to play the next editions.
So I feel honored to get to be part of it, and to this scene and their efforts to work in music. Hour 1 is my mix; hour 2 is the excellent post-industrial destruction of Italy’s SØULLESS. So hopefully we can help you find some new artists.
The mix was a chance to really dig through emotions and music (mostly newer, some older but relevant) all at once. I actually tried not to mix too much Palestinian music in there since Exist is already a great platform for that, but I did try to put it in some context – and it’s also a way of saying thanks to Palestinian producers who did move me this year, with some of the other music I felt strongly about.
So here’s a guide through that music and why I find some inspiration in it. I do find mixing is this nice bridge between production and writing – a chance to get out of our heads on the other two and really listen actively. It’s not all 2020 music, that is, but this is all music I listened to deeply and repeatedly in 2020.
Natela Svanidze – “Epitaphium (Live Performance)”
Siavash Amini – “A Collective Floundering”
::vtol:: – “z0+$”
Liliane Chlela – “2020”
randomizedissues – “fyi”
Muqata’a – “Mish Aktar مش اكتر”
AGF ✸ poemproducer – “NANOsilence”
Peter Kirn – “Incantation for imprinting”
Miri Kat – “7h3f7 – سرقت”
S Olbricht – “Onhom”
Stanislav Tolkachev – “Uglevod”
William Fields – “viz”
Two or The Dragon – “Prelude for the Triumphant Man (Part III)”
Peter Kirn – “La Jetée Ost”
Iglooghost – “Shrine Hacker (ft. Babii)”
HEXORCISMOS – “𝔈𝔩 𝔖𝔢𝔫𝔡𝔢𝔯𝔬 (El Gendero)”
King Britt – “A Discovery : Movement II”
Nina Pixel – “A Species in Denial”
FRKTL – “Will, Want, Desire”
Arash Azadi – “Circling Exhibitions In A Blackhole (Mescalito’s First Lesson)”
00970 – “0001”
Настя Яцхей – “Дикие звери”
Years of Denial – “Life Is A Theater”
Izabela Dłużyk – “Evening air for green strings”
Let’s talk through some of that music:
Natela Svanidze is a legend of Georgian composition; her work from the Soviet era just saw release this fall, and it’s absolutely stunning. You get musical responses from contemporary Georgians in the mix. In case you missed her work when I wrote about it earlier this year:
Siavash Amini works in field recordings and paints portraits of Tehran. I don’t know that A Mimesis Of Nothingness made it to any 2020 year-end lists, but it should.
Moscow-based ::vtol:: is best known for his kinetic sound art and installation works, but he turned out this beautiful, poignant track for a compilation by Kotä Records (I mixed in my track, as well). This was a beautiful collection of chilling ambient work, especially from the Russian scene:
Beirut’s Liliane Chlela produced a heavy, pounding, cinematic release with some real impact in May:
randomizedissues – “fyi” is a find from Istanbul’s Algorave, exquisite live coded composition which debuted on Bandcamp in October:
I think both Francesco and I included some Muqata’a; this is just utterly essential Palestinian hip-hop and production:
AGF is an insanely prolific composer and producer and fearlessly champions ideas and music without a moment’s rest. Based in Finland, she also has a unique approach to collaborative work and performance out in the field. She is herself a powerful voice, so when her music explores the voice, it’s something special – hence “nanoSILENCE” is really a favorite for me.
Here’s a great deep-dive review from last year, when the release Commissioned Work came out.
It turns out it mixes into the beginning of my own release, as well, and I made this album as a way of exploring my voice and field recordings along with synthesized materials:
I do also love returning to Miri Kat’s live-coded music – a 2017 release I was lucky enough to put out, but every bit as fresh to my ears now and something I always enjoy revisiting:
Going back to 2015 and Slovakia, here’s a real gem by S Olbricht for the Proto Sites project in Bratislava, and I guess I’m about the only one who dug it up?
Stanislav Tolkachev is someone who is so prolific, I think you’re constantly finding ingenious compositions from him; this particular track was for the Ukrainian compilation ШЩЦ:
William Fields did some of my favorite live performances lately; the algorithmic composer working out of Philadelphia is one of the few people whose work can carry across a stream. This is an older track, but a great one from 2017:
I just kept going backwards in years as Two or the Dragon is 2015 – that’s music I mentioned in the write-up of artists from Beirut:
Iglooghost is some wonderful, weird production from the UK; I loved this whole 2018 album:
One of the only performances I got to enjoy from the (socially distanced) audience after COVID restrictions kicked in was the deeply talented ℌEXOℜℭℑSMOS, from Mexico to Berlin (and there in northern Italy). He’s using machine learning techniques to dig into pre-Colombian materials and produce genuinely new sounds, and he’s been busy, so keep watching this space:
King Britt has been a legend in Philadelphia and worldwide, and now his experimental side is just absolutely exploding into some of his best works yet. The Buddy System Project to me was one of the most profound responses to unrest in the US and worldwide, and to me it’s more top music of 2020 (especially if you dig through everything he put out this year for context):
An epic work here:
Slovakian based in Berlin Nina Pixel is a friend and I think an intensely personal performer and composer. I’ve spoken about the whole compilation, but “A Species in Denial” has a special urgency that resonates with the other music in this list:
A lot of year-end lists seem frustratingly repetitive, but then you see music that you feel deserves to be listed again and again. FRKTL’s Excision After Love Collapses was absolutely that for me, and I think it fits the spiritual mood of a lot of the other work here at the same time. So if you ignored all those lists, stop, and go listen to the full release by Sarah Badr (from Cairo, but currently in Riga Latvia), end to end.
This year, the music of composer Arash Azadi hit me even harder than when I first encountered it. As with Miri’s release, it’s one I keep coming back to again and again, and I do hope it gets your attention:
00970 is another artist you really must discover, so talking about Palestinian underground producers always brings up that opportunity – this 2019 release is something really special:
While eyes focused on Beirut in 2020, this was a difficult year to put out music at all there, so the absolutely stunning work of Years of Denial also belongs on more year-end lists. It’s also the artist name that best fits this moment in history, obviously.
Still want more?
And check their whole Threads SoundCloud account:
Most importantly, we could use your help supporting ODDZ, who has made Exist Festival a reality. As Iti Teder writes:
My friend Odai Masri got stranded in Tehran for 9 months on the 24th of Feb when Iran was called a coronavirus red zone which stopped all air travel in Iran. As a Palestinian national Odai needed papers and visas to be able to board most flight routes that were eventually restored but he also needed to get an entry approval to the country of destination. Odai attempted to leave 8 times with no luck until recently the Palestinian Embassy in Tehran received a notification to evacuate all Palestinians in Iran and he was finally able to reunite with some of his family in Amman. It has been a very difficult time for him with no steady accommodation and income.In support 2 fundraising radio takeovers have been organised featuring artists across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. The first radio broadcasting is on Radio Flouka today 20th Dec starting at 4pm (GMT+2). The 2nd show is on ROOT next Saturday 26 Dec 2020. Line-up: Ahmed Shk | Abdallah Dabbas | Arabian Panther | Choronzon | D3MOR | Howl | Marwa Belhaj Youssef | نَرد ŃRD | ODDZ | Raymond Haddad | Søulless | Tom Debords | 00970 | ProphänAll os us, friends of ODDZ and Odai himself will be sending you all our love and gratitude for your support. 30% lifelong discount applies for Exist Festival productions for anyone contributing with more than 40euros.If you have ever thought of attending one of the most special festivals on earth Exist Festival, then now it is a good time to get involved.
Full details and a huge radio takover for Radio Flouka:
And you can help support at: