Frédéric D. Oberland & Irena Z. Tomazin – Arba, Dak Arba

Originally, Arba, Dak Arba was the soundtrack to an installation by French artist Fanny Béguély. In the exhibition, Béguély’s chemically-painted photographs focused on ‘humankind’s propensity for self-examination and its attempts to probe the mysteries of the past, present and future’. Frédéric D. Oberland and Irena Z. Tomazin’s eerie music is a close examination of the past, summoning up something from the Middle Ages with its dank and musty sound.

It is music of a reset, a cleansing and a return to something once thought to be extinct. The sparse sound gives back the freedom and respect of musical simplicity when for so many decades it has slept on, in the shadows of rapid melodies, stage-bravado, and a limitless outpouring of notes. The pair strip everything back until only the essentials remain.

On Arba, Dak Arba, Oberland uses an electric hurdy-gurdy in an unsettling, haunting way that evokes a closer examination and goes even deeper than physical appearance, peeling back the skin to reveal the truth of the past and the human experience. Some of it is rotten, expired. Even with its focus on the past, it is by no means a regression, but an enlightenment, and something of a refreshing change. The pair are able to conjure a minimal, cavernous, and blackening sound.

Tomažin’s vocals rise up like tentacles of smoke, levitating over the hurdy-gurdy’s drone and sometimes wavering with an almost-guttural use of vibrato. Dark, ritualistic, and raw, the vocal lives beside the drone; an unsettling symbiosis in which neither one loses their grip on the other.

Vocal scratches and stutters evoke a mystical, prehistoric atmosphere. It can be both modern and date back millions of years, a Jurassic sound. The intensity never drops and the vocalisations go beyond the realms of sanity; expression with no limits. Anything is available, and like a true artist, the vocals are used and abused, reaching their maximum potential by shunning the mainstream.

Unsettling and uncomfortable, the vocals articulate something that travels beyond mere words, and where words can’t do the feeling justice…not even coming close. Either in pain, anguish, or mourning, the music appears to have come to fruition at just the right time, toppling over gravestones as it rises up, screaming out from nothingness and blossoming into an ill world, spreading into the atmosphere and into our dark period of history.

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