There is a scene that now, more than ever, is decentralized. But that doesn’t mean simply “out of major hubs.” It can be people getting closer together over further distances. And so witness the new chapter of Exist, from Ramallah festival to events and connections elsewhere and this transcendental premiere release.
In case there is any doubt about the need to work together, even if it’s sometimes challenging, Exist sums it up best. They propose that their principles are “resistance to homophobia, and the ongoing colonization of various parts of the world by state actors or multi-national oligarchs.”
Let’s trace the progress of Exist here – and I hope that this is just one project that opens the door to other Palestinian artists and cooperation across the middle east. (I especially feel that way as I write this from Beirut! Good evening, Lebanon.)
In 2019, Exist was born as a festival in Ramallah.
Festival founder Odai Masri has been working in Amman to continue the project and get the label running.
That has added the connection of label co-founder Chafik Chennouf in Amsterdam.
Plus it sounds like they had an exceptional outing of the festival this year in Athens – even with COVID surging in Europe causing havoc. Wish I could have been there:
The Threads* series has also since run an ongoing radio show to highlight artists and connections that grew out of that festival. (I even got to contribute once with the lovely Søulless.) And thanks to my friend Iti Teder who has been a big supporter and worked on the project in Ramallah and on the radio.
And now, today, we get this brief but spectacular EP compilation. I knew from the quartet of artists on the lineup this would be something special, and I’m sure it’ll resonate with a lot of readers.
Scottish-born, NYC-based Drew McDowall opens with a floaty, darkly angelic ambient number that vibrates and quivers.
Ramallah’s own Muqata’a, now haunting Berlin, remains to me one of the top producers to watch now in general. Everything he does is imbued with an anxious electricity, and this is no exception, with brutal breaks riding atop a grinding stretched texture – an exciting evolution of all his recent production outings. “Headmelter” is a good term from the label.
CASKO has… honestly, I can’t even quite describe this one. It sounds like a rave meets an anxiety attack meltdown. There is a thread here throughout the release, a sense of growing unease, one with turbo-explosive results.
I’ve written about Odai before but not CASKO – that is the club/techno alias of Morocco-born, Amsterdam-based Chafik Chennouf, the co-founder of this operation. I don’t want to call this particular track “deconstructed,” but it is fair to say it uses some recognizable elements for new realms. His more-straight techno outings in the past, though, are well worth a listen – brutal bangers, and still with that nervous energy that seems to bind all these artists together. I would totally play these. Oooh… I might totally play these. Yeah. Hey, act surprised if you happen to hear me somewhere (even a mix) and I do, ‘kay?
They won’t have the same experimental-spectrum appeal as the Exist EP, but I like this dancefloor/rave personality too. I mean, “Disrupt & Heal” is a weapon, for instance:
And then there’s Tegh, working here with Adel Poursamadi, in a rich, textural elegy. (Wait, is the experimental Iranian scene finally widely recognized now? I assumed that was just that Sote is so prolific with Zabte Sote label and, well, yeah I won’t shut up about them on CDM!) You can get more of Tegh on Opal Tapes:
It’s great stuff – and I appreciate the thoughtful notes here from the label, so give it a read and then do dig further on each of these artists, as they’re each of them terrific.
After the impact of Exist in Ramallah festival back in 2019, and how relationships between the artists got established and the attendees contribution that helped to shape the identity and the vision of the project itself. Exist decided to take the next step and expand the project with a label that is runned between Amman based and festival founder Odai Masri and Amsterdam based and label co-founder Chafik Chennouf with the same ethics that the festival is standing for.
Some of the main principles Exist upholds include resistance to homophobia, and the ongoing colonization of various parts of the world by state actors or multi-national oligarchs. In turn, we think that this colonization leaves no one free, and that it especially targets communities (human and non-human) that are most marginalized by capital and historical racial and ethnic structures.
The first release ‘Marks of Existence’ is a collection of mind-melds with some of the scene’s most continuously exciting and refreshing artists: Drew McDowall, Muqata’a, CASKO, Adel Poursamadi & Tegh.
The Scottish, NYC-based experimental musician, Drew McDowall, has been subverting the formula for many years now, having clocked up storied work with Coil and Psychic TV back in the day. His track ‘Conceal the Wound’ is a stunning, exquisitely chiselled piece of synth music. It’s like waking from a dream, only to return to its febrile clutches.
Ramallah’s Muqata’a came through flawless with his cut ‘Administrative Detention’, a blast of chaotic chopped breaks and lurching neo-beat tape MPC programming. The breakcore influence in combination with referencing crimes against humanity makes the tune an intense headmelter. The ideal soundtrack for unorganized resistance from a firsthand perspective.
‘The Price You Pay To Be Unattached Flesh’ sees CASKO push the hi-tech dirt of his Opal Tapes, Leyla Records and Voidance releases down darker ginnels to claustrophobic, anxiety-raising effect in a collection of brilliantly neon explosions of colour and exuberance floating on a sleazy and slow beat with bags of North-African swagger.
Experimental electronic musicians from Iran have marked their prints on the face of the universal experimental music scene for some time now, though the manner in which their status went from “non-existent” to “present” and from “silent” to “noisy” might somehow seem “unpredictable” to the naked eye. Tegh, known for his work on Opal Tapes joined forces with Adel Poursamadi to come up with a beautifully bittersweet synthetic orchestration in a staggering fashion to close this EP with.