Audio Postcard

Excavation Series Bonus – Old/New Delhi December 2017

Greetings from Old/New Delhi.

It’s been a month of discovery and nostalgia.

Today an afternoon vacation kind of vibe finally sitting outside under semi-clear blue skies. The onset of winter as the shadows linger beneath this tree’s canopy. These gently swaying branches and the birds chirping and swooping back and forth between their hangs, so many green parakeets here, are they happy?

This state-sponsored oasis rolls on behind these four walls but tomorrow the dusty gray city will beckon again, tragic and irresistible. We all breathe it in. The work week flies by in a minute; learning the parts of the machine, fascinating in its glorious decay.

Off-hours I dive back into favorite sounds, visions and colors (ragas!). The radio frequencies have changed though, can’t find what I used to all those years ago. Cassettes have disappeared too. Music on physical formats is hard to track down. Everything up on that damn cloud now, apparently. Still I do find and rescue some treasures from dust-encrusted corners of the old city.

Catching music live too is hit and miss. There are some venues which present Indian classical in an appropriate way without any corporate or government-sponsored BS. The underground stuff is sadly lacking though so far, nothing like our beloved (and sorely missed) Rhizome to speak of. Slowly making some contacts so let’s see.

At least the diplomatic pouch thing works. It means I can receive packages sent from ‘home’ without any International shipping charges. As I wrap up these notes, our latest Excavation Series batch just landed. Thanks to you all for the awesome response. It’s a joy to share these sounds. Looking forward to 2018: we have more rad releases lined up so stay tuned…

Currently reading:

1. The Lost World of Hindustani Music (Kumar Prasad Mukherji)
2. Visions of Development: Films Division of India and the Imagination of Progress, 1948-75 (Peter Sutoris)

For now, an audio postcard from here:

Peace out to you and yours. See you on the other side!
Phong Tran

New Release

Excavation Series 13 – Engelika and Others: Music from Films of Music

Enter flutes in hovering polyphony, a perfectly noted interlude, restrained and playing with time, breath accenting tremolo-like fluctuation, like choppy waters or ridged gateways miming the Sepik River, eventually turning to calm, what was sent out to the spirit-world is returned in kind – the meaning in seconds now replaced by the understanding of the natural world seen clearer for the days ahead, the illusory boats regain composure and settle down.

Cut to Ensemble:
Group interactivity catered to song and pulse, percussion by hand as melody to voice as person to persons, another level of communication – instruments mining emotional overlay, things of the past catching up to the future, guessing at what can take place, letting go and coming to, in living figure, in moving picture.

Jake Webster, who records as Tuluum Shimmering (and is a giant favourite of Phong’s and mine), has presented us with a mesmerizing collection of music sourced from documentary film and video. And in a brilliant turn, we can now share this wonderful music not easily available, as Excavation Series 13, and spotlight these gorgeous sounds and beautiful pieces that segue and spiral around each other in a perfect way. Cameras shapeshift into loudspeakers, frequencies converted into proper documentary listening, we can close our eyes to double the imagery.

Tuluum Shimmering has a plethora of albums on a ton of formats, he’s a prolific musician and artist, and we’re very happy to get a chance to work together outside his more natural working forces. His mix here knocked us back: we’re quite into repurposing sounds from one format to another or taking things out of an original context and presenting it with a renewed vigor, here some of the pieces recorded many years ago shine in a proper encored legacy, and we not only get a better understanding of Webster’s own unique musical listening and influential habits, we get a tremendous compilation of field recordings from dedicated sociocultural anthropologists who have done extremely vital work.

Do please check the tracklist notes for details pertaining to the films in use here, we recommend tracking them down as we scramble to do the same.

Engelika and Others: Music from Films of Music

One name that you will see returning throughout the recordings is French filmmaker Yves Billon. His Les Villages du Film and Zaradoc production companies have circled the globe framing genuine documentary film with essential field research. I first came across Billon’s work with the biography on Ali Farka Touré years ago now (co-directed with Henri Lecomte whose work is included here as well), Ali Farka Touré: Springing from the Roots, and was enraptured. It was a beautiful portrait of one of my favourite guitarists. I definitely didn’t register Billon’s name at the time, if I knew he had such a growing treasure chest of ethnographic wonders I would have sprinted back to the library and started a new hunt right then and there.

To go along with pieces from Billon’s films on religious Sufi music in Pakistan and folk music within Balochistan, there are selections from three films that he co-directs as well: the film on the music from Guinea with Robert Minangoy, the film on Mongolian music with Henri Lecomte, and the film on the music from India, Rajasthan specifically, with Agnes Nordmann.

If those breathtaking musical landscapes weren’t enough, Webster’s gifted us with incredible selections from documentary films on the music found in Papa New Guinea, specifically the indigenous peoples of Lake Chambri; music from Morocco, specifically the Berber people of the Atlas Mountains; music in Bali, specifically a group from Peliatan performing Kecak- the trance dance chorus ritual found near the end of the second side; and two fingerstyle guitar pieces from the documentary African Guitar by Gerhard Kubik: one recorded and filmed in Divundu, Namibia and the final piece of Malawi guitar folk that ends the second side recorded and filmed outside of Vienna, Austria.

The spirit behind the films and research is a sensitive and empathetic undertaking, there’s a commitment to truth and reality over everything else, the anthropological reality of these beaming worlds is in view honestly and respectfully, and openly.

Spirituality and ritual, morality and humanity perfectly woven together, every passing musicality is the same distance away from the heart as day to day principality, like blood moving down snaking passageways, flowing away from and back to, the music equally tied to the gathering of the community and the path it will take, there are times for joy and unfiltered happiness and times for sorrow and tragedy, flowing to and flowing back from, surrounding that all-important center.

Traditions live in the now as much as in history – time moves indistiguishably between different parts of the day, there is no need to compartmentalize, there’s no need to separate community from the individual, and no need to separate out today from the events of the past. Social participation’s a given, built into that legacy, nothing is obscured or in opppostion to, decades pass and the same candles remain lit, gifting us with light that is regenerating, we do our best to respect it fully.

I think the music shared here and their attaching feature films are more than passing momentary documents. The performances and events are highlighted edits pulled from that interactive experience and immersive real-life research that goes well beyond superficial artifice. These are gifts being offered and accepted from one group of people to another and then returned in kind. And the music and cinematic realism speaks for itself. It is a respectful poetic footage and it can change your life. The selections here represent that great work, artists and thinkers and scholars skipping past their own realities to learn about culture and other parts of the world in sociological study and musical excitement with a very real social interaction and intent that is the unlocking standard.

We hope you enjoy the album as much as we do, and thanks for sticking with us as we continue to move the boulder up the mountain with our Excavation Series of mixtapes. We can’t thank Jake enough for this collection. This tape was professionally duplicated in an edition of 75 copies. This album is also bundled with Excavation Series 12 & 14, so head to Bandcamp for the full three-part package if that is of interest to you, and we hope it is.


New Release

Excavation Series 11 – Noise May Provoke Hornet Attacks

Dive in, but head’s up when you cross the road, this goes well beyond looking both ways, let the natural traffic sounds and impending anxiety sweep you up, with head on a swivel, and get the fuck out of the way fast or you are toast. Every kind of horn imaginable is present in an ever-growing chord, each one higher pitched than the last, maybe the recorder is stationary and just watching the city whizz by, nothing more relaxing than sipping a coffee and reading a book while Calcutta or Delhi or Bombay bombs the speaker’s threshold, just another lazy day with the squeaking rails and motors hum-humming, your brain exploding with the multitude of tiny sounds hitting escalation, prayer and musical interludes a mirage of the calmer life, it’s many-parts-making-the-whole platitude ringing absolutely correct while microphones vibrate and blur in the heat of the day.

The final tape in our new three-part batch comes from Robert Millis, he of the group Climax Golden Twins and frequent contributor to Sublime Frequencies. Robert’s Indian Talking Machine project, a culmination of his travels in India surrounding everything to do with the 78rpm gramophone record industry, is a stunning photo-collection and musical compilation operating at very high levels of ethnology/musicology and guerilla research.

For our series, he’s taken a more diaristic approach, including personal field recordings captured on his travels, everything out of doors and in the moment, whirring activity and claustrophic crowd-filled chant, hissing traffic noise and jeeps and motorbikes and buggies and wind and bells and movement and trance, he’s delivered a one-of-a-kind mixtape for us, one that not only shows the real life audial experience shadowing his travel and hot-spot expertise, but one that pushes the boundaries of concrete music and experimental field recording. It finds the perfect sweet spot balance between modern kitchen-sink verite sonic snapshot and the older, more primitive era of classical music playfulness and scratchy surface noise ambience. One flows out from the other’s river, and they all flow seemingly back and forth between old and new, hovering that deadly fine-line of novelty throwback record, think whistling birds or the sounds of the big city, (but now in full stereo spectrum!), and performance sound art mastery.

Luckily for us it’s all quite teetering, teetering over the edge appropriately, again imitating the confusion and everything-at-once of the cities’ high, and we are honoured to put this out and to share it. Noise May Provoke Hornet Attacks, says it all really, side one is filled with field recordings and side two showers in some beautiful 78 recordings nestled real nice.

Millis is a big inspiration to us, and speaking alone here, having his mixtape masterpiece included in this original trio of big-time works, a batch that includes Phong Tran’s incredible All India Radio tape recordings, and Ian Nagoski’s wonderfully curated Javanese collection of older Jacques Brunet recordings, is a very special thing. I truly did not see this coming, and we’re stoked to keep the train rolling along.

This tape was fully pro-done in an edition of 100 copies. Cassettes come with a digital download code. If looking for digital files only, please look up bandcamp here.

So I’ll take this chance to say a huge thanks to Phong for making a lot of this happen, and a huge thanks to Rob and Ian for helping push this little operation up the mountain with us. It’s a humbling time and a good time to jam some mind-blowing tapes.

Paypal options for this tape combined with Ian Nagoski’s Excavation Series 10 or this tape combined with Phong Tran’s Excavation Series 9 and Ian’s 10 are found below. The three tape batch is very limited and will be gone fast so please act accordingly. Shipping is free going everywhere. If looking for just this tape alone, head to bandcamp please.



*New distro details for International and UK friends can found here.