Early Works: Things Popping Up from the Past
Numerous threads run through the music of sound artist, composer, and producer Michel Banabila (born 1961), whose contemporary work ranges from adventurous electronic cross-breeding of chamber instrumentation through industrial rhythmic sampling and outwardbound modular synthesis to deeply elegiac drones. This set collects the Dutch artist's instrumental 1980s work -- beautiful minimal loop-based electronica, classical-influenced pieces, and ambient drone music -- documenting his early years with material originally released as cassettes, vinyl EPs, and limited CDs. Banabila's piano echoes with a disarming simplicity, its atmospheric gestures bringing to mind the proto-minimalism of Erik Satie. The melody could easily be an additional hundred years old -- except for the fact that the refined patterning is something that likely only could have been pursued in light of the music of Michael Nyman and Philip Glass. The equipment on which this music was made, notably an early sampler, was limited in various ways, key among them the relatively circumspect set of capabilities, especially in terms of memory storage, and the lack of received performance techniques. The equipment was simple and it was new, and neither factor limited Banabila's ambition; on the contrary, the tools concentrated his imagination. If the classical pieces represent the Old World as framed by the new, then the more recognizably "electronic" work here is likewise most at home in a fictional place, an idealized zone. That zone is a quiet neighborhood in the Fourth World, to borrow Jon Hassell's terminology, one in which digital tools render something that is, for all its technological dependency, ultimately a form of folk music -- an otherworldly folk music for another time. Fidgety percussion plays amid a fierce but restrained guitar line (there are echoes of Laurie Anderson and Adrian Belew). An ambiguous and elongated drone, thick with subliminal activity, beautiful in its toxic anxiety, suggests dire activity on the horizon. And yet the horizon wasn't dire. Quite the contrary; what was ahead for Banabila was a long string of releases, a healthy and well-documented career in which so many of these individual threads have been provided time and space to have entire records dedicated to their pursuit. This album of archival works documents the continuity inherent in Banabila's music. It is a map in musical form, tracing a path that crisscrosses back and forth between the Old World and the Next.