Guest Review / Max Essa on Field Works` Cedars

Below is a review / article written by Tokyo-based DJ / producer / label owner, Max Essa. Ban Ban Ton Ton is always looking out for contributors – other voices, other points of view. If anyone reading feels passionate about something – enough to put it in writing, or perhaps even a video clip – please get in touch. 

Words by Max Essa of Jansen Jardin. 

Cedars is the ninth installment in the Field Works series started in 2018 by Indianapolis based producer, Stuart Hyatt. Throughout this series Hyatt has worked with a variety of musicians and ideas – last year’s Ultrasonic being notable for its use of the echolocation calls of the Indiana Bat.

This latest project presents an intriguing combination of cosmic Americana, Western ambient and Middle Eastern influences. Each side of the vinyl LP is played by two different ensembles – the musical frameworks of both being composed and performed by Stuart Hyatt plus Marisa Anderson, on guitar, and requinto, and Fadi Tabbal, on guitar, and electronics. A blend of pedal steel, oud, hurdy-gurdy, and banjo, drift above looping 6-string drones to create a deeply satisfying union between folk and electronic music. Combined with Arabic and English poetry, the compositions here reference ancient forests and our complicated relationship with the natural world.

Side A is narrated by Lebanese musician and musicologist, Youmna Saba, and begins with the wonderful, La’āli’. We are introduced to an understated, but incredibly stirring, ebb and flow of sound, over which Saba’s glorious voice provides a fascinating and emotional lead. As this first side progresses the sheer breadth of feeling, the light and dark, the tremulous beauty of it all is breathtaking. The experience provided here, fearless drama, balanced with a sense of vulnerability and peace, is thrilling and sincere.

Turning the record over to Side B there is, for a moment at least, a sense of being somehow wrong-footed. The mood has changed, the light is different. Over a backing of acoustic guitar and pedal steel the voice of alt-Americana artist, H.C McEntire, conjures scenes of rural tranquility. We gradually start to slip, however, into a more dream-like state. Gentle synthesized textures and pulses make appearances as the words take a poignant turn – describing another side to the idyll we seem to have wandered into. “And now, without any shame, we construct machines that can make a mountain disappear.” 

The music here is glorious, spaced-out, evocative, and we continue to examine our place on the Earth.

Cedars is an amazing album on a beautifully mastered and cut piece of vinyl. The gatefold sleeve is gorgeous and includes a fantastic, full colour ‘comic’ – illustrated by Maria Medem and containing the English poem, by Todd Fleming Davis, and the Arabic poem, by Saba.

Field Works` Cedars is available to order directly from Temporary Residence. 

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