Music for viola and electronics II / Error Log
Michel Banabila is a Rotterdam-based musician working across a range of genres. Two recent collaborative releases give an impression of the breadth of his work: “Music for viola and electronics II” with Oene van Geel is an expansive, stylistically omnivorous affair, while “Error Log” with Machinefabriek is altogether more focused. The influence of acousmatic approaches to composition makes its presence felt on both albums.
As its title suggests, “Music for viola and electronics II” is the second duo album from Banabila and van Geel, though as a description of the music it’s a little bit misleading: a number of other acoustic instruments feature on the album, such as trumpet, clarinet, drums, and cello, and there’s additional programming from Radboud Mens. The treatment of electronic sounds is very typically acousmatic, with rapid cuts and leaps across the stereo field. The acoustic instruments, however, tend to be arranged in ‘modern classical’ configurations, with rhythmic and melodic motifs drawn from folk complementing the lush block chords and some very nice pizzicato work from the viola. The beats laid over the top by drummer Joost Kroon took me by surprise, but made more sense with each listen. Not usually my thing, but an enjoyable listen nonetheless.
Straight away “Error Log” announces a very different musical experience from Banabila and Machinefabriek’s previous ambient-inspired collaborations from a couple of years ago. This time the electronics are thick and grungy, with greater exploration of each timbre and texture; strong contrasts are created with warm string chords and glimmering guitar that go straight for the heart-strings. Falling vocals and muttered words are drawn straight from the acousmatic playbook, but the overall tone is much closer to analogue synthedelica: warm, squelchy, and sculpted into vague, shallow peaks and valleys rather than precise formations. If the path followed by “Music for viola and electronics II” seemed relatively fixed and linear, “Error Log” is an album for drifters and wanderers; where the former fixes an image, the latter leaves an impression. Both are well worth checking out.
Image by Gerco de Ruijter