From Iceland — Sounds Of Strife: Music Collaged From Former Conflict Zones

Sounds Of Strife: Music Collaged From Former Conflict Zones
Eli Petzold

Looking for a way to ease into the weekend? Ambient musician Sam Slater will bring his rich, haunting soundscapes to Mengi this Friday. This Berlin-based Brit spent half of 2014 traveling, collecting field recordings from regions that have recently undergone major conflict: beginning in Berlin, where modernity, urbanization, and gentrification perhaps obscure the recent trials and travails of the divided Cold War-era city, then through the Balkans whose scars of strife are still palpable in the landscape, culminating in Myanmar, a nation still divided by ethnic tension, even as its recent military dictatorship has eased up. Working with these raw materials, Sam pieced together the lush (if not eerie) tracks that make up his debut album, ‘Languish Barriers,’ due to out October 10 on All Female Parliament.

If this all sounds conceptual and cerebral, that’s because it is. But judging from the two tracks he’s released ahead of the album, “Languish Barriers” isn’t one of those albums where you need to know the lofty concept in order to pretend to enjoy it. It’s straight up good music. Sam has masterfully worked his material into vivid soundscapes which evoke both the present-day realities and the not-too-distant ghosts of these recent conflict zones.

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On “Gold Held Over (for Al Summers),” one of his recently released tracks, Sam lays a crystalline rhythm of bells and chimes over the sound of Burmese teenagers beating gold into gold leaf; a woman’s voice, singing at the conclusion of a fertility ritual, drones in and out of the background throughout the track. “Forest Gospel,” his other advance track, is a languorous waltz of blips and whirrs, interrupted by the Muslim call to prayer, as recorded in Mostar, Herzegovina. ‘Languish Barriers’ promises to be something of an experimental ethnography, wordlessly conveying the experience of living in lands haunted by, and still recovering from violence.

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Although based in Berlin, Sam’s been living in Reykjavík since July, working at producer Valgeir Sigurðsson’s Greenhouse Studios. With Bridget Feral, a US-based electronic musician and fellow Greenhouse veteran, he cofounded All Female Parliament, an exciting and experimental record label based out of Reykjavík. Citing the appeal of physical music forms, All Female Parliament’s albums—‘Languish Barriers’ included—will be released on SD cards in addition to digitally.

Sam has already been getting some attention, featured on the blog Line of Best Fit, and as a track of the day on Berlin-based Nothing But Hope and Passion. Friday night’s show at Mengi will be the album’s live debut. He’ll tour “Languish Barriers” through his native UK before returning to Reykjavík, playing at several off-venue shows during Iceland Airwaves. But don’t wait til then! His show at Mengi promises to be intimate and thought-provoking.

Mengi, Óðinsgata 2

Starts at 20:30

Admission is 2000 ISK

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