In a commandeered shopping cart strung with contact mics, in an old-growth Indonesian forest a mile’s walk from the nearest dirt road, it begins. Dreams of two-way radio static direct from future floating cities fade in and out, trading licks with ecstatic idiophones, the buzz of gut strings. The world is coming apart at the seams, riven by injustice, greed, craven stupidity, global warming and partisan weirdness.
At the intersection of unabashed globalism and bass music, the wandering arts instigator Filastine takes dance music to its outer-national limits on £00T, incorporating and dismantling lush sounds from North Africa, Brazil, Java—and from down the street where all the noise and protest hums.
Filastine and Nova, ‘Colony Collapse,’ from the album £00T: Interweaving a spectrum of Javanese gamelan instruments with echoes of low-frequency dubstep grind, while Nova’s lithe voice tells a multilingual tale of environmental implosion. ‘Colony Collapse’ was filmed at sites of ecological friction, the fault lines of conflict between humanity and (the rest of) nature.
An audio-visual nomad and percussionist, Barcelona-based Grey Filastine can simultaneously command the dance floor, start a sonic street insurrection in Tokyo or Barcelona, and win over xenomaniacs worldwide with found objects, North African and Indian percussion, custom software, and video collage. He makes low-end rich, organic beats and images that speak to our ethical bankruptcy, pending environmental collapse, and alt-globalization possibilities. It’s Occupy breaking into bhangra shouts and samba parades, as gamelans and glitches multiply.
Filastine has driven taxi cabs, raised hell with marching bands, spontaneously kicked out the jams from the back of a van with local MCs on the streets of Tokyo. He’s mounted a salvaged, blast-ready loudspeaker on a shopping cart and marched through the streets, creating illicit urban soundtracks with snippets from field recordings he’d made from Bangladesh to Brazil.
Filastine, ‘Skirmish,’ from the album £00T
The shopping cart, eventually festooned with mics and transformed into an instrument, became a Filastine calling card. “It’s an indigenous instrument, like a tube hollowed out by termites became a tool for music in Australia. The metal shopping cart is a perfect modern instrument, because it’s a piece of debris you can find anywhere,” Filastine explains. “Sometimes it’s easier, sometimes harder, but I managed to get my hands on one, even in Borneo or Morocco.”
It’s that same portability and mutability that attracted Filastine to electronic music, once the laptop revolution completely changed the way dance music is created. “You used to have a pile of specialized gear, and you’d spent your time geeking out. Then laptops and new software came along. Before starting I didn’t know anything about making electronic music, but I just wasn’t hearing anyone making the sound I wanted to hear. Someone had to fill this niche for more polyrhythmic compositions, to make something less cold and quantized, using more gritty acoustic inputs.”
Filastine generates these inputs himself, using tabla techniques he studied in India, playing the hand drum (though with drumsticks), laying down rhythms picked up from hours of samba parade marching down Rio’s rougher streets. He takes a few seconds of decades-old orchestral string hits or a mere breath from a Bollywood pop chorus, chops them into tiny digital bits, then realigns them to create ingeniously off-kilter, ear-catching lines.
Filastine and Nova, ‘Gendjer2,’ from the album £00T. ‘Gendjer2’ resurrects the lyrics of a midcentury soul anthem associated with the women’s movement of the Indonesian communist party, crushed during the notoriously violent Year of Living Dangerously. It’s a ghost song, banned for forty years and still semi-taboo.
These altered moments are then overlaid with analog instruments: Cellos, trumpets, and guitars recorded from Lyon to New York, or Filastine’s own drumming, finally mixing it all together at his rooftop studio in the Muslim quarter of Barcelona. The beautiful tension between the electronic and organic, the time-twisted and real-time, give Filastine’s tracks a distinct sonic depth.
On “Shanty Tones,” a rolling cumbia shatters and reforms, to bittersweet pulses of brass and cello strikes, a growling shout out to friend and cumbia-proponent DJ Rupture. Sirens and samples of Glenn Beck and postmodernism’s poster boy Michel Foucault (“May I Interrupt?”), bent keys and rapid shakers collide with purring Chicago-style juke beats (“Circulate False Notes”) and bursts of avant-garde beauty (“Spectralization”).
No accidental tourist, Filastine’s global side comes from powerful connections on the ground. He encountered Japanese avant MC ECD during a street show organized by an arts collective taking full advantage of Japan’s election laws, which allow candidates to blast music from specially tricked out trucks. “ECD’s a maverick. He really blew up hip hop in Japan, but with him, there’s no fronting. He’s just a creative, interesting person with a precarious quotidian existence,” Filastine recounts. “He’s got a strong political perspective, but he’s also into Dada and abstraction.” ECD leaps into Filastine’s mix and waxes poetic about the tragedy at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in “Lost Records.”
Filastine met striking Javanese vocalist and storyteller Nova when she organized a generator-power gig for him at a Jakarta artist squat. The two hit if off, and their friendship eventually led to several of £00T’s tracks, including “Colony Collapse” and “Gendjer2.”
“Gendjer2” resurrects the lyrics of a midcentury soul anthem associated with the women’s movement of the Indonesian communist party, crushed during the notoriously violent Year of Living Dangerously. It’s a ghost song, banned for forty years and still semi-taboo. “Colony Collapse” interweaves a spectrum of Javanese gamelan instruments with echoes of low-frequency dubstep grind, while Nova’s lithe voice tells a multilingual tale of environmental implosion.
‘Colony Collapse’ is featured in this live promo teaser for the album £00T
“The motor bikes in South East Asia are everywhere,” Filastine notes. “We worked on those tracks on a country road in an old wooden house, and even there, there were scooters roaring by all day long. I spent two days walking around, looking for a quiet place. We had to wait for a break in the rain, rush out, and set up our recording studio thirty minutes from road to avoid the whining engines. We did get some really loud insects, though, and the call to prayer in the background.”
“It’s a balancing act: to split my efforts between activism and being a full-time artist,” Filastine reflects, “but often I can bring a political element to people who are just looking for music, as a kind of carrier wave alongside the music. What I do is life art: to treat the way I travel, survive, collaborate, learn and compose as one coherent method.”
From our friends at World Music Newswire