The Muesli Man
Creative Sources CS 120 CD

Without making too much of the correlation, it’s likely that the filmic involvement shared by Beirut-based bassist and electronics manipulator Raed Yassin and electric bassist and clarinetist Paed Conca from Bern – the duo Praed – combine to make The Muesli Man one of the most sonically cinematic recent releases.

Melding found and sampled sounds plus additional triggered electronic bursts and emphasized timbres from their acoustic instruments, the duo’s achievement is also notable because the CD’s aural imagery doesn’t even suggest the wide-screen story telling of cinemascope or HDTV. Instead, the split-second jump cuts, rapid editing and tincture blending that have long characterized experimental film making are expressed aurally on this notable disc.

Reminiscent of some of John Zorn’s 1980s sound collages, careful listening is recommended to pick up all the allusions and interjections incorporated into the session’s 40 short tracks. Throughout, the vector of the production changes direction so often that a new timbre often gallops onto the aural sound stage before the listener has fully grasped the pictorialist significance of the preceding one.

Yassin, associated with Lebandon’s MILL association for improvised music – whose members include trumpeter Mazen Kerbaj and guitarist Sharif Sehnaoui – is also a theatre and video artist. A decade older, Conca, who regularly composes for theatre and film productions, works in addition with the musicians such as Swiss reedist Hans Koch and British bassist John Edwards, and has also played with Kerbaj and Sehnaoui.

Cunningly the booklet graphics for The Muesli Man play with Asian and Middle Eastern stereotypes and bring into focus many of the musical inferences expressed on the disc. Along with improvised, notated, minimalist and electro-acoustic impulses, the blurry samples most consistently utilized here are evidently sourced from those areas’ most celebrated productions: Japanese action films and Arabic cinema singing. This transformation is especially obvious on “The Man who lost all his Friends (with Japanese Subtitles)”, a cut-and-paste tour de force, which takes up the CD’s first 34 (!) tracks. Its multi-faceted resonance alters in multiples of seconds – not minutes.

Nuanced and deconstructed, this sonic film begins with what sounds like a rifle shot and concludes with a locomotive whistle dissolving intro sobbing clarinet intonation – another cinematic allusion. Along the way, the polyphonic production involves such split-screen commentary as curvaceous clarinet trills balancing on top of piston-like electronic drives; reed pops and blunt bass thumps intersecting with Japanese dialogue; a sequence encompassing radio static, Arabic music and backwards running tapes; heraldic trumpet samples abutting Europeanized clarinet glissandi – and what sounds like pressurized pop bottle caps being released.

Modernism, traditionalism, primitivism and post-modernism constantly vie for aural supremacy, with triggered oscillations and muezzin-inspired chanting mated at one point; stereotypical Oriental cackling and a gentle Lebanese lullaby contrasted at another; or replicated California-style surf bass guitar runs introducing agitato reed chirps, sawing string impulses, pitch and velocity-altered soundtrack dialogue, bell pealing and abrasive buzzing timbres. Before the final fade-to-black in fact, the penultimate variations reintroduce non-sound-manipulated acoustic sequences with electronic flanges underlining a broken octave exploration between vibrating clarinet and thumping bass.

Arrayed throughout the remaining tracks are further variations on these themes. Additional studio and laptop triggered signals are mixed in with blustery and blurry shrills, electronically reworked vocal and orchestral outbursts plus shuffle-bowed and slapped string lines, faint reed slurs, and recreations of percussion ratamacues and ruffs.

“Half a Rabbit, Probably” provides the proper summation of the project. Built on spherical interplay, the fortissimo, undulating textures on the track evolve into neatly wrenched-apart drones that by its finale almost obliterate the flanged bass-string tones and single-stroke percussion that precede it. As metal abrasions meet bulky clangs, a machine-processed explosion succeeds a signal-processed wave and wraps up the interface.

If well-made indie films can have sequels, so should indie filmic CDs. Perhaps it’s now time for collective auteur Praed to create an equally stirring follow-up to The Muesli Man.

—Ken Waxman


Track Listing: 1.-34. The Man who lost all his Friends (with Japanese Subtitles) 35. Abed Al Nassar in Space 36. Bambi, Bambi 37. I Entered Once a Magnetic Field 38. Fill It With Money 39. Abu Kartoneh 40. Half a Rabbit, Probably

Personnel: Paed Conca (clarinet, electric bass and electronics) and Raed Yassin (bass, tape and electronics)