100% of Salaam for Yemen’s profits will be donated to the charity War Child, which provides assistance and help to children and young people in areas of conflict. A joint collaboration between labels hibernate and Dronarivm, Salaam for Yemen is undeniably impressive with its diverse range of musicians, all involved in the evoking of ambient and electronic music. These include The Green Kingdom, Isan, Hannu Karjalainen, Dalot, Olan Mill, Birds of Passage, øjeRum, Giulio Aldinucci, Phillip Bückle, Isnaj Dui, Sven Laux & Daniela Orvin, Hotel Neon, Anne Garner, Ekoplekz, Snow Palms, Maiya Hershey, Mind Over Midi, Aaron Martin, offthesky, Anjou, Anthéne, Olga Wojciechowska. Moss Covered Technology, Sonmi451, Pausal, and Part Timer with Heidi Elva.
‘Children and young people have the right to grow up free from fear and violence, to develop to their full potential, and contribute to a peaceful future – for themselves and for their communities’.
Starting off in classical territory with a piece from Aaron Martin, the music soon turns to translucent ambient, and it stays that way for much of the compilation. Anjou’s track rocks to the motion of soft beats, wrapped up like a Christmas gift in shimmering layers of ambient and electronica. There’s more of an emphasis on the purely electronic after the halfway point, but it’s an interesting release where, although of a high standard, the music becomes secondary to the compilation’s theme and mission. These are real children. They need our help.
Anne Garner contributes a lovely vocal-led reworking of ‘Soft Eyes’, the sparser version of which appeared on her 2015 album, Be Life. Her lyrics are full of hope and optimism, a dazzling light of what’s possible, of what’s obtainable, the ravages of war embalmed in nothing but love and healing. The echoing lyrics – ‘hoping for spring’, and ‘I wish you could see’ – are prayers and pleadings. Peace, not the horrors and the cruelties and the sufferings of war, along with its lasting repercussions, seeps into this compilation. The offerings are largely filled with hope and light, although there are instances of devastation and reckless decision to hammer home the futility of war and the inexcusable suffering of children. While the anti-war message is clear, it simultaneously uplifts the desire for peace among all nations, a ceasing of all conflict. With 2018 marking the centenary of WWI, it seems to be all the more relevant and topical. Governments often use war for political and financial gain, but the people are the ones who suffer; soldiers and civilians both. Ambient music fits in with its serene ethos.
‘On Our Hands’, by Birds of Passage (aka Alicia Merz), has something of a split personality, when the comforting security of a finger-plucked guitar – a folk song – is unexpectedly shattered by an overhead warplane, a bomber bringing nothing but negativity, hatred, and pain, a heavy distortion splicing the track in two. Its barbed, toxic sound hangs in the air, dropping on the track like a bomb and mushrooming upwards. Peace is fragile, and Alicia’s lyrics-avec-poetry become a verse on vitality and viciousness; something good being destroyed in a split second, because that’s all it takes. Giulio Aldinucci provides a beautiful choral piece that elevates the music to a safe place, lifting it up in a soft light offered by its peaceful vocals. Nothing can harm the music. A light drone oscillates in the background, winking in and out like a glimmer of light while bringing some movement to the track, gliding through its faint clouds. The record can also take a turn towards the sombre, of course, with weary, damp string sections draping a forlorn air over things. The music, then, has been chosen specifically to reflect the subject, and this is indicative of a lot of thought and effort: the music is for the children, and for War Child.
‘Drive’ is a different take on the 1984 classic from The Cars. But Part Timer and Heidi Elva turn the track upside-down, and it becomes almost unbearably sad, although a tint of barely-suppressed rage lies underneath. The cool electronica has long gone, and without its distant, echoing thumps, the track transforms into a tired lament:
‘You can’t go on, thinking nothing’s wrong. Who’s gonna drive you home tonight? Who’s gonna pick you up when you fall? Who’s gonna pay attention to your dreams? Who’s gonna plug their ears when you scream?’
The lyrics are shocking in their immediacy, and they’re incredibly moving. Sober, pained, and urgent lyrics are thrust into a new context, removed from the previously secure nest of American suburbia and landing in a war-torn village shredded by violence and occupied by weeping orphans. This is what gives the music its weight. One has the feeling that other wire-like electronics have been specifically designed to inflict a number of flesh wounds, like a barbed fence, which protects some, but stops those who’re seeking to flee. And Sven Laux teams up with Daniela Orvin (who produced one of the year’s kindest and finest ambient records with Home) on the track ‘Children First’. Not America First. Children. War destroys; it doesn’t have the capacity to heal, but her music does, her soft, glowing chords acting as a comforter to a child in need. Those children will grow up, either knowing something of violence or the kindness of strangers and their encouragements of future peace.
While it would be an impossible, and unfair, task to single out every track, they’re all equally deserving of attention. Given the reputation of both labels, it’s enough to say that the music is special. Real effort will hopefully turn into real sales, and it all goes to help others. Special mention goes to the good people at War Child, who continue to do fantastic work.