Songbook #7 by Mattin

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Mattin | Songbook #7
Munster Records (LP/DL)

Coming soon from Basque experimenter Mattin is his next Songbook #7 which features Farahnaz Hatam, Colin Hacklander, Lucio Capece, Moor Mother, Cathleen Schuster & Marcel Dickhage. Mattin, who has been making various sounds since ’01 released his first Song Book in 2005. This record takes two historical references as a point of reference: Revolutionary Russia (circa 1917) and anarchist Germaine Burton (who appears on the cover) combining them to respond to, in his words: “dissolution and disappointment of the social fabric, the rise of fascism, lack of coherence in a collective vision for the future and the shortcomings of democracy in a capitalist system. These times feel like being stuck in a gif, and here the response is to look for different understandings of time and history.”

It’s a heavy, heady subject matter to wrap around, but the visual is so striking it makes perfect sense to give this one a very deep listen. Though a specific date has not been set for release, the seven individual tracks here each are dated in succession: 01 January through 07 July. Here’s are a few clips from his previous two, Songbook #5 and Songbook #6:

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This begins with a voice that is blurred, distorted, and decomposing by way of frequencies and other electronic means. The voice splits into different forms, new voices are added, transmissions from another world, slowly twisting beyond recognition. I also noticed that the first six tracks here each run at almost exactly seven minutes each, with a longer conclusion. It’s a hazy white noise fusion that harkens to the b-movie feel of bot-like ‘take me to your leader’ futurism. A whirring industrial bottom feeding drone reverberates under your feet as these parties attempt to communicate a message only understood on alternate channels, through the din of static. As track two begins he speaks of revolution, into a dulling silence, that leads into a punky fever of broken frequencies and abstract percussive punctuation. A voice warns, a prepared saxophone blends wildly into the distortion. It’s a wild ride. It’s an on/off again contained chaos of its own making and origin that is one part Crass via The Gerogerigegege -inspired, documentary noise warfare, and the remaining in-between lay bare in a fearless atonality that has no edges as he blurts out something about “There is no freedom….&@)(&)#(&#((^@

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I’d imagine this would be a fantastic spectacle to see in live performance. If jazz went to Hell and back it might begin to describe the pacing of the players on this record. This lays in that dangerous, obtuse, far-out space normally fit for acts like Nurse With Wound, The Hafler Trio, Terre Thaemlitz, Ultra Red, Lasse Marhaug, etc. Mattin is able to contain and expand upon his devious constructs by truly exploring the outer edge of sensory perception – by bending synths and murmurs back into a tranquil spoken word passage. The sax is moody and effective, as are the animated, wobbly vibes.

In a time of war and fascism, those were two very different answers: a collective attempt at social transformation and a desperate lonely gesture. Neither response really managed to succeed to overthrow capitalism but they had a motivation and a clear way to act, something that seems to be lacking right now. If previous songbooks dealt with the tension between improvisation and song structure, between an emphasis on the production of the moment and having a conceptual framework, here the tension is produced by conflating the present with the past, and in doing so the tension between communism and anarchism is also explored.

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Capitalism is at the core of questioning access to means of production here. It’s an unconventional subject matter, one that in our time you’d imagine more artists would be exploring, but since we are re-re-living the ‘me generation’ in our era of the post-virtual-instant click of satisfaction, it’s hard to estimate the tangible. Mattin delivers a raw, emotive response to our social/political times, rarely heard these days. It’s ultimately such an enjoyable listen, with its endless characterizations, samples, whispers, squiggly sound effects and kitchen-sink approach, there are too many appropriations to speak of, it has to be heard to be believed. It’s an open and closed audio book of sorts, an abstract radio play. His use of silence is notable, mainly because there is so much to digest here, but it’s tailored to curious ears at every turn. Stay ’til the very last breath as you will be lost in a barren synergy between gasps and congas that becoming increasingly dissociative. It brings to bear our international, collective state of consciousness these days, ending with a delayed round of applause.

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