New music by Al-Qasar and Iggy Pop: Down into the dark abyss

New music by Al-Qasar and Iggy Pop: Down into the dark abyss

Psychedelic protest music: The albums by Al-Qasar from Paris and Brussels artist Catherine Graindorge with Iggy Pop will remain timeless.

Photo of the band Al-Qasar

Barbès covers the 9th, 10th and 18th arrondissements of Paris. From there come Al-Qasar Photo: Kid Richards

Good music in tricky times, the extroverted variant: There are one or two resting points on “Who Are We?”, the debut of the quintet Al-Quasar, but the eight songs with a total playing time of almost 45 minutes are urgent and fast-paced. Even the two-minute intro breathes latent restlessness: the quicksilver sound of an electric saz drives into dense walls of guitars. Percussion in a stereo alternating effect and renewed guitar feedback open “Awal”, the second piece.

As “Arabian Fuzz” the band outlines what they’re doing and does it pretty well. Al-Quasar was founded by saz player, guitarist and keyboardist Thomas Attar Bellier in Barbès, a migrant district of Paris. The collective doesn’t play multicultural kitsch, their thing is psychedelic protest music of the most diverse provenance. Al-Quasar come from France, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt and the USA. “Who Are We?” makes every flyer look old.

The guitaristic purgatory at the beginning of the album is ignited by Lee Ranaldo, known for his decades of work in by the noise rock institution Sonic Youth and numerous solo albums. Al-Qasar have invited even more celebrities: Jello Biafra, propagandist and shouter of the Californian hardcore punk legend Dead Kennedys, tele-declaimed over a surf guitar as in the most striking moments of his former band: “Ya Malak” is the first English translation of a text by Ahmed Fouad Negm.

The lines of the Egyptian revolutionary poet are reminiscent of Bertolt Brecht’s “Whose morning is the morning, whose world is the world?”. The question has never gone out of style and will not for the foreseeable future.

Tribute to Barbes

Iggy Pop and Catherine Graindorge against a black background

James (Jimmy) Newell Osterberg, aka Iggy Pop, and the Brussels violinist Catherine Graindorge Photo: Robert Morales Matteo

“Hobek Thawrat”, the fourth piece, picks up on the threatening atmosphere of the introduction and then, despite the reduced tempo, develops into a dense middle section, carried by percussion and rounded off with bass effects. The singer is the Sudanese artist Alsarah, best known for The Nubatones, her contribution is also a love song and at the same time more than that.

An instrumental is followed by a homage to the Barbès district of Paris, where Al-Quasar live, supported by songwriter and oud player Mehdi Haddab. The finale of “Who Are We?” will be played by Al-Quasar in an ensemble with singer Hend Alrawy: “Mal Wa Jamal” lets the music end robustly.

Good music in tricky times, the introverted version: “The Dictator”, the just over 15-minute EP, which the Belgian musician, composer and actress Catherine Graindorge recorded with Iggy Pop, begins with a somber tone. Iggy, the 75-year-old US punk first-time offender, is not necessarily stored in cultural memory as an introvert, but he proves to be quite adept in the register. Since 2009, with one exception, he has offered jazz, chansons and electronics on his current albums instead of pure rock music.

Atmospherically, “The Dictator” ties in with “The Dawn”, the coda of Iggy’s 2019 album “Free”, only it doesn’t clear up on “The Dictator”. His sound remains somber. Graindorge primed with violin, viola and harmonium. Her musical work is wide. For example, she plays with the instrumental post-rock band Nox and has already worked with colleagues such as the songwriter Andrea Schroeder and the Australian psych blues player Hugo Race. Graindorge’s solo album “Eldorado” (2021) has been one of the musical bright spots of the pandemic.

The great dictator crushes the weak

Iggy Pop’s contribution to the title song of the joint EP “The Dictator” begins with a childhood memory of the smiling US President Dwight D. Eisenhower. He places images of political violence over them. The great dictator, sings pop, he’s coming. He knows magic, he turns day into night. He knows instincts and crushes the weak.

Pop’s chanting doesn’t come from a pedestal, but from a deep, frightening abyss. In “Mud I” he sketches a foggy walk along the river. The one who is walking says that with every step in the mud he is walking further towards silence. Based on what we’ve heard so far, Pop’s new album, Every Loser, announced for January 2023 doesn’t seem to be going where it’s headed.

Unlike his duo with Catherine Graindorge. Half the world goes about in rags, says “Mud II”. You can’t drag yourself up, and knowing about it makes you tired. Just then his voice gets brighter before it gets lost in echoes. The laconic titled instrumental “Iggy” closes the EP.

Iggy’s childlike perspective on the textual world of “The Dictator” is reminiscent of a work from the New York MoMA collection: “I Saw Stalin Once When I Was A Child” by the Russian artist tandem Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid. The naively evil painting shows Stalin being driven into the night in a state carriage. He pushes aside the red curtain of the back window and looks out of the picture.

“The Soviet people’s great harvest manager” (Brecht officially) and “deserving murderer of the people” (Brecht unofficially) could appear to the child from the title as an exhausted father of the country. In August 1989 has the writer Christoph Hein in the time written extensively about the painting. The essay should actually have been published in the GDR, where Vladimir Putin had been working for the Soviet secret service KGB in Dresden since 1985. As second mayor of St. Petersburg in the early 1990s, Putin was then supposed to recommend another dictator as a role model for Russia: Augusto Pinochet, from 1973 to 1990 an economically liberal and the murderer of Chile.

Source link