As we face another exciting year ahead, we couldn’t help but look back in awe of the many breathtaking moments that have paved the way; moments filled with enchanting performances and strangely beautiful discoveries, where we played witness to blossoming new talent and shared our insatiable hunger for more of all of it. For a taste of some acts and tracks that have left their mark on us in their own special way, here’s a staff-flashback edition, from the SSFB crew to you.
Whilst still enjoying the afterglow of Laraaji’s most mesmerizing performance at SSFB – Utrecht, I was surprised by a sound I recognized. I couldn’t exactly pinpoint the name at that moment, but it did feel like summer had traveled back in a time capsule. It was Phuong Dan playing “The Attic” by Lhasa. I stumbled upon this track while researching the Belgian New Beat scene for this article, and Phuong Dan playing it in a room that was still immersed in a soothing calmness suddenly lit up the whole space. I was on cloud nine with every beat getting faster. It was the symbiosis of recognition and surprise – like when you get goosebumps from hearing your favorite song on the radio. That’s exactly what it felt like.
Whilst my favorite act was a hybrid of both freezing in time from excitement and a soft climax building, this song is all about stopping time and slowing down. It’s an Estonian soul classic that reminds me of summer, of moments where I literally stood still, dreamt away or did calm things like having breakfast with the sun shining through the windows. Despite the fact that I don’t speak Estonian, the Sovjet sound reminds me of home, as well as the soft melancholy and nostalgic feelings it evokes. “Stopp, seisku aeg!”, which means “Stop! Stall The Time!” is definitely my favorite to wrap up 2018 with and set off to a new year.
In the middle of Ramadan my friend Natek took me to Makan in downtown Cairo, where the Mazaher Ensemble has a weekly performance. On this night I experienced the likes of a za’ar ceremony for the very first time, something I had been fascinated by ever since discovering the work of Halim al-Dab’.
Al-Dab’s 1944 “Wire Recorder Piece” from the album Crossing Into The Electric Magnetic (2000) is one of my favourite gems. A shorter version of the 20 to 25 min composition “The Expression Of Zaar” (Taʻabīr al-zār), this piece was made during a period when al-Ḍab’ was interested in the everyday social interactions of Egyptians with music. He was intrigued by the za’ar ceremony, a form of folk music and healing ritual where women play a leading role, including singing, doing incantations, playing flutes and the darbūka.
For the recording of this piece al-Ḍab’ and his friend Kamal Iskander had gone to a ceremony dressed up like women, carrying with them a portable magnetic wire recorder and microphone. Their disguises were quickly foiled, but were allowed to stay and record the ritual. Al-Dab’ then took the material to the Middle East Radio, which had studio equipment that enabled the artist to re-use the women’s vocals and create a variety of reverbs. The resulting series of unrecognizable voices, hidden tones, speed levels and various layers of vocals were then transmitted onto magnetic tape.
Mazaher Ensemble is a great example of the ancient musical traditions of za’ar ceremonies. Although its original constitution differs from the current, more performance-oriented style, their music still holds strong spiritual meanings.
While clapping to the music and admiring the interesting instruments – my favorite is the mangour, which you can find in the first video – I felt excited and calm at the same time. What predominantly triggered me about their performance was the leading role women played in it. Their beautiful voices, use of drums, dancing and interaction with the audience really left me mesmerized.
I was making photos at SSFB 2017 when Insanlar (Turkish for humankind) started playing their combination of electronic and traditional Turkish music. I literally had to stop in my tracks because I was captivated by the music; it was so hypnotic. Without knowing the language, it made me feel as if I could visualize the music. I found out later that the lyrics had come from a 17th-century poem.
During the traumgarten weekender in the garden of De School last summer, Loma Doom and Merel played “Kime Ne” in their B2B set. The song just builds and builds until the entire audience becomes one. Special place, special music and special memories.
Some time at the start of 2018, tickets for Aphex Twin at Funkhaus Berlin went online. I bought a couple of tickets instantly because it had always been my wish to see him one day. Months passed and I had nearly forgotten about the event, to the point where I almost sold my ticket because I hadn’t really planned the whole thing out correctly. Luckily we still found a way to go (shoutout to Stefan) because I would have missed out otherwise on hearing Aphex Twin play ZULI’s “Trigger Finger” on a sound system as intense as this. The whole set was an experience but when he dropped this one my mind and body got fried. There is no hiding from this track; it grabs you like a pit bull and locks you in. Best thing I experienced this year.
We invited Die Wilde Jagd twice this year; once for a show in Milan, and the second time for the festival. Both shows were part of my musical highlights this year. I asked Sebastian to make a mix for us and this track was in it. The combination of the repetitive bass, especially, with the saxophone and the well-organized guitaristic mess at the end feel very soothing and healing to me.
This track came out just some weeks ago. A bit poppy, but with enough layers to keep me fixated. It fits these dark days like a glove. The video clip is something else, even more beautiful as a whole. I guess this will become huge.
Let’s close with some uplifting vibes. Just like Die Wilde Jagd, DJ Marcelle was also one of the highlights of this year’s SSFB. One of the tracks that did it for me was this one by Errorsmith: a highly energetic bomb that was perfectly timed in her set. A very effective way to cure your winter blues.
Having had the pleasure of reviewing all articles coming through the magazine with a fine-tooth comb, you could say I’ve developed an uncanny attachment to the stories that accompany all of the music we feature. My appreciation thereof is thus invariably tied to the vivid anecdotes surrounding each of their existence.
One such track that comes to mind is “Zuerst Ich” by Silvia Nemanic and Tommi Stumpff. First to play on last year’s Silvia reissue by Dark Entries, it was my introduction to the enigma of Silvia and her fluke recording stint. That I heard it fresh off proofreading the story written by Thomas van Linge just made it all that more poignant. Stories like these don’t just expose the huge irony that is life; they are a reminder of why we should never be so quick to judge or discount anything, because true value and beauty can’t be determined by the narrow constraints of a few finite moments. Witnessing the journey taken by this nondescript girlfriend of a punk singer from one spontaneous day at a studio into our consciousness decades later… that somehow made me feel larger than life yet utterly insignificant at the same time.
The entire album is a celebration of the accidental artist, our insatiable appetite for the paradox and an ode to every digger’s dream. I won’t spoil the story for you. Read it for yourself here.
Strange Sounds From Beyond is connected to this very special year for me. From starting my residency, to the euphoric outburst while playing at the festival for the first time ever but also accomplishing some pretty nice stuff as the head of partnerships. which I’ve now transferred on to the awesome Luca, since life unfortunately doesn’t give me all the time I need.
After going to Waking Life to join Izabel two years ago, I discovered the magical festival, during and after which I did a lot of thinking about how SSFB could fit into this magic world. Later I got in touch and following some meetings during ADE and Skype, we managed to create a nice line up filled with residents, SSFB friends and family for the Cochilo stage of this year’s Waking Life. Being there in the middle of nature in Portugal together with the whole crew and playing after Aleksi Perala in a treehouse – that was my highlight this year. I added a collage of the vibes during those moments. Playing for the first time at Noorderlicht for the official SSFB festival this year hits this same level of “highlight”, for those who know it and were there : )
Now, after my deep words of the summer, the track I would like to add to the “will never forget in my life” moments…
The word lekker was never the same again.