Here’s the situation. Arturas Bumšteinas (aka REFUSENIK) picks up an old Polyvox synthesiser in Vilnius (the capital of his home country of Lithuania) and uses it to play pieces from a 1927 Hebrew music book by Abraham Berenstein entitled Musikaliszer Pinkos. I feel differently about the record now I know that. Seen one way, the record is Bumšteinas perspective on Berenstein’s immaculate score, seen through a frosted window of misinterpretation and instrument limitation. Seen the other, the record is Bumšteinas’ murky outline seen through a translucent surface, dictating the prose of an other through the faltering voice of a further other. What am I actually hearing?
At times, it barely matters. I can’t think for the commotion of hiss and abrupt warm tone – notes cutting in and out all binary brash, others fading in awkwardly or splashing upon miniature echoes. It’s a strange sort of music, stammered and melancholic like a particularly difficult eulogy, trailing off in the stereo left only to resume its train of thought in the stereo right. Sometimes I’m granted a peek at faults in the circuit as particular keys are crushed by loose static. Many of the held tones appear to tremble with the wither of age. At a couple of points I wonder whether the instrument will survive the entire record, as the little bubbles of staccato turn more choked and infrequent. I imagine the wiring inside starting to wobble its way out of the crusted glue, rupturing the portal between past composer and present performer. It holds together, but just.