Review: Tse Tse Fly – Easy Listening Volume One

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Tse Tse Fly is an experimental artistic collective based in Dubai, celebrating avant garde music created all across the Middle East. Easy Listening Volume One is the collective’s first compilation release, showcasing the sounds that occupy the gulf between silence and the glistening capitalist noise for which Dubai is so prominently known: jagged electronic figures, murky ambient shades, self-destructive breaks. It’s rife with textures I don’t understand; bass hums that evade all familiar origins; guitars processed into slurps of reverse rain; voices crushed into wails of robotic children. Aside from the location of the artists themselves – and the consistent affection from marginal, ambiguous forms of sound – there is no central theme to which all tracks adhere.

And that’s a wonderful thing, as each track transition heralds a sudden atmospheric shift that obliterates any accumulating familiarity. I never acclimatise. Hasan Hujairi’s terrifying “Rondo Alla Dilmuna (or The Future History of Red Dogs)” depicts a landscape where everything appears to be melting (perhaps at the hands of that scorching Middle Eastern heat) – drones stoop like pillars of hot wax, while voices slur and subdivide as vocal cords reduce to pools of goo. In the move to Sanathana’s “Pitch Black Experiment”, I’m thrust into a room where multiple stereos are playing at once: some blaring drum rehearsal tapes, some locking on to obscure alien radio frequencies, others emitting the tinny taps of MIDI modern classical symphonies. I do my best to listen in all directions simultaneously, and suddenly find myself pushed between the hydraulics of João Menezes’ “rerr.or”, which seems to mimic grinds and thumps of the factory automation line, before dropping out into Nour Sokhon’s biomechanical pond of electronic fog and rippling water. Tranquility emerges, if only for a precious few minutes.

Personal favourites emerge quickly, but no doubt they’ll change in time. Visqueen’s cover of a German/Yugoslavian TV title theme centres on a haunting ricochet of voice and stereo-panned delays, whose melody eventually charms feedback and thunderous noises out of the dark. Jonny Farrow’s “Android Sea Chanty” – created using a self-playing modular synthesiser patch – presses tones against eachother at jarring angles, holding them in place so that they buzz in aggressive complaint. The piece seems compelled to return to the same patterns again and again, as if enamoured by the strange beauty of each harmonic shape, scrutinising them as if in search of concealed ancient secret. Elsewhere, Simon Coates’ “Hey Sister! I Love You Or Your Family” is like a hole drilled down to the centre of the earth – choirs swirl upward like steam, while strange electronics pulse like lights emanating somewhere within the void below. My head is throbbing as I depart the compilation via Remote Viewer’s closing piece, drowning in imagery that refuses to make immediate sense, burning with the unanswered questions posed by the compilation’s strangest, most obscure mutations of texture. It’s a wonderful collection, and one that consistently slides into new shapes under the scrutiny of repeat listening.