This isn’t exactly a take on the Maqām, it’s more an impressionist film score from a Western viewpoint.
Now normally I’m extremely wary of artists lifting sounds wholesale from another culture. Not because I disapprove of acts of musical cultural vandalism, far from it I approve wholeheartedly if done well. Rather it’s all too often a good excuse to be lazy and trip out a vague ménage of obvious musical gestures that wastes everybody’s time.
This release is one of the good ones I’m happy to say. Yerevan Tapes in itself is an interesting label, they set out to make and record out of the way music, often drawn from non-Western cultures. Their second release La Piramide di Sangue is the work of Stefano Isaia, the singer from Movie Star Junkies and his mate - the strangely monikered “Dedalo666” ( no I’m none the wiser either). The mission is seemingly to steal inspiration from North Africa and the Middle East and they do so without sounding too reverential or hidebound. This isn’t exactly a take on the Maqām, it’s more an impressionist film score from a Western viewpoint.
Musically the LP is dominated by the dolorous sounds of the clarinet which, (present as it is throughout), gives the record a strangely subversive, ambivalent, voyeuristic feel. Listen to the incredibly seedy IL Primo E L’Ultimo Fuoco and the menacing Negromanzia #3…. it could be taken from the soundtrack from the Battle of Algiers. …The tracks are short, mostly round the two minute mark, and, combined with this feeling of voyeurism, are more like snapshots than any tortured homage to the Middle Eastern musical legacy. There’s something of Moondog here too. La Linea d’Ombra sounds like one of Moondog’s more doleful essays on rhythm. There’s a strong DIY / “Play at Home” aesthetic which also draws on
Everything ends on the surprisingly raucous 13 which sounds the most Western track on the LP. A good listen.