Review: REFUSENIK – Musikaliszer Pinkos

REFUSENIK - Musikaliszer PinkosHere’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.