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På skive


«Pollution Opera»

American, Berlin-based double bass player-composer Nick Duntson (known for his work with Mary Halvorson, Anna Webber and Amirtha Kidambi) asks: what if the blue that I see is different from the blue that you see? Or, how is the Blues that I hear different from Blues that you hear? This question led him to compose the Afro-Surrealist Anti-Opera COLLA VOCE.

Afro-Surrealism protests: what if that which one calls a ‘dream’ is a nightmare to another? What if that which one calls ‘rational’ is completely baseless to another? The Anti-Opera COLLA VOCE confronts the opera form, subverts and turn it inside-out. ‘colla voice’-literally, ‘with the voice’. Moving with the voice, breathing with the voice, working together with the voice-all voices. It is a warped narrative of sorts, hurtling from acoustic universe to electric universe, string to scream, raw to produced, New York to Berlin, and of course: real to surreal. It is largely inspired by writers: Octavia Butler, Toni Morrison, Ted Chiang, Richard Hugo, and Gabriel García Márques. Their works are fictitious, poetic, folkloric; genres that tend to uncover a potent emotional veracity.

This postmodern, complex and futurist, mysterious and unsettling work demands an open and inclusive listening. It employs four idiosyncratic vocalists – Cansu Tanrıkulu, Sofia Jernberg, Isabel Crespo Pardo and Friede Merz, the chamber JACK Quartet plus two string musicians, guitarist Tal Yahalom and drummer-percussionist Moritz Baumgärtner. Dunston added post-production cut-and-paste editing in addition to playing the double bass and COLLA VOCE was produced by American, and fellow Berliner composer and sound engineer Weston Olencki.

Pollution Opera offers another experimental and futuristic take on the opera form, «a shameless alloy of love and hate». Vocalists and sound artists – British, Berlin and Vienna-based Elvin Brandhi (aka Freya Edmondes, known as a beat producer) and Egyptian, Cairo and Montreal-based Nadah El Shazly embrace the horror. The electro-acoustic Pollution Opera is an uncompromising depiction of our disfigured, dystopian, and dying reality, expressed with a volatile and distorted compound of breathless shouts, screams, and screeches, in collision with vocal samples, environmental recordings, and acousmatic sounds.

Pollution Opera was conceived in 2020 during the first tandem motorbike ride through Cairo when Brandhi and El Shazly were singing and screaming through the extreme noise pollution of the metropolis. Further recordings in another metropolis, Kampala in Uganda, where motorbikes are the main mode of public transport, were used and developed for a live audio-video performance with video material captured by Arno Mery, later reworked by Egyptian artist Omar El Sadek for the Banlieues Bleues Festival 2023 in Paris.

Pollution Opera attempts to restore poetic intimacy within a dissonant ecosystem and offer a futurist mythology that unfolds between death and rebirth, a timeless vacuum of hope and dread. The evocative vocals of El Shazly shine through the layered yet cinematic, chaotic and cacophonic cut-up and bulldozed rhythmic samples, especially on the seductive «CRλ and the dance-like «Crisp Heart». Brandhi and El Shazly suggest an ironic idea of what a postmodern opera may sound like by offering no answer at all.

Eyal Hareuveni

Nick Dunston (post-processing, double bass), JACK Quartet: Christopher Otto (violin), Austin Wulliman (violin), John Richards (viola), Jay Campbell (cello), Cansu Tanrıkulu (voice, live processing), Sofia Jernberg (voice), Isabel Crespo Pardo (voice), Friede Merz (voice), Maria Reich (violin, viola), Anil Eraslan (cello), Tal Yahalom (guitar), Moritz Baumgärtner (drums, percussion, megaphone), Elvin Brandhi (voice, electronics), Nadah El Shazly (voice, electronics), Ocen James (violin), Marie Requa Gailey (soprano)