Cem Güney – three dots, a jaw, and a cul de sac

Cem Güney - three dots, a jaw, and a cul de sac, old photo of Instanbul showing tower blocks and a tramline

Cem Güney’s previous album “five compositions” was recorded with a chamber ensemble and released on the quietest label Editions Wandelweiser. For his new EP, he returns to the electroacoustic techniques that characterises his Crónica records “Praxis” and “Water-Nature-City”. The atmosphere pervading “three dots, a jaw, and a cul de sac” is quite unique, however, and relates to the release’s subject matter: the political experience of the composer’s home country, Turkey.

It seems easiest to start in the middle. ‘are you the president’s militant?’ begins with distant tapping and a muffled rumble. Between broken, stuttering radio messages, some sort of chanting briefly becomes audible. Confused news reports mingle with the static, as if trying to smother a signal, to block out a noise or at least keep it muted. Suddenly that blockade is shattered, and it becomes apparent what the tapping noises were: people banging pots and pans, whistling, beeping their car horns, shouting. (Güney told me that these are field recordings made during the Gezi Park protests of 2013.) Buzzing notes ring out in another space, followed by muffled bluesy chords, rough and distorted round the edges like a tattered flag.

Once heard, this piece frames the three others preceding and following it. The EP opens with the industrial roar, clank, and grind of ‘voodoo empire’, timbres that take on an oppressive edge when heard in the context of what comes later. Likewise the heavy radio static, buzzing, and muffled voices of ‘internal diegetic arcade’, as an imagined citizen scans the airwaves for foreign broadcasts to bypass a government’s domestic media monopoly. Final piece ‘overproof rasps from the gutter’ is perhaps the most obscure track on the release, its loud, out-of-control buzzing and squealing, dancing and sliding between different pitches and timbres, like a society wheeling out of control.

In some ways “three dots” bears a relation to Edu Comelles’ “A Country Falling Apart”, a record that walks a similar line between audio documentation of a society in crisis and active participation in protesting that crisis. If anything, though, Güney presents a sound that is even more aggressive and scathing — a powerful reminder of the violence into which a society can descend.

 

 

Cem Güney

Cem Güney’s Bandcamp site

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