Thursday, December 08, 2011

there's exoticism and then there's exotica

as in the Polynesia and Oceania allusions of Dolphins Into the Future

Lieven Martens has been putting out a steady stream of releases since Music of Belief

mostly in the "nature sounds tapes" / ethnological field recording vein

all good audio-idyll background listening

(the track "The Mirning Heart" is dedicated to the Mirning, an indigenous tribe from South West Australia)

("Ko'okika Moku'aina" here is described as "an evocative sound postcard from Hawaii's Big Island, the Orchid Isle", while the title track uses recordings of Pacific Ocean waves, Polynesian choirs and "site specific bird sounds")

there's also been the odd side project like this--L.R.J. Martens And Ada Van Hoorebeke's Eternal Landscapes--which is a collaboration with a visual artist and consists of two long tracks each taking up a side of vinyl ("Eternal Hunting Grounds" and "Spirits and Landscapes") wrapped in a gatefold

early next year though there's going to be a more Album-like release on Underwater Peoples entitled Canto Arquiplelago

a couple of listens suggest this could be his best since ...On Sea-Faring Isolation

Lieven's fellow-traveler in nu-exotica Spencer Clark is back with the evocatively named Fourth World Magazine present The Spectacle of Light Abductions on Pacific City Sound Visions

now I could swear this turned up in the mail but for the life of me I can't find it in the house, despite a recent de-cluttering initiatve

did i dream its arrival? (I know I met Spencer in Portland)

here's a taster

the Dolphins and Fourth World Magazine nu-exotica thing reminds me a tiny bit of this moment in electronic music

and of course 808 not only had "Pacific State" but they did the team-up with Mr Fourth World Music himself, Jon Hassell


maybe it's because Lieven is from Antwerp but for some reason I got to thinking about a much earlier example of religious exotica, the work of the Belgian priest
Father Guido Haazen, a missionary who went to the Congo, where he formed Les Troubadours du Roi Baudouin, a choir of about 45 boys aged nine to fourteen, plus percussion section. In 1958 they toured Europe for six months and there was an album, Missa Luba, one of whose songs, "Sanctus", became famous a decade later because of the way it threads through a certain notorious British movie of the late Sixties.

I haven't been able to find much about how the album was received at the time of its original release, but there definitely seems to have been a questionable aspect to the framing of the record.

The choir, I fear, is posited as doubly "pure", doubly "innocent", on account of not just being boy-children but colonial subjects whose hearts and souls have been filled by the white man's religion.

At the same time the merger of West African music with Western ecclesiastical music is undeniably lovely.

The mini-craze for this kind of record (there were imitator releases: others from Africa and some from Latin America too I think) is an early form of world music but it's hardly ever mentioned, perhaps because it's so blatantly colonial.