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VARIOUS ARTISTS – “OPEN STRINGS: Early Virtuoso Recordings From The Middle East, And New Responses” (Honest Johns)
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This is a compilation of two halves. The first half being a treasure trove of 1920’s 78rpm recordings from the Middle East, while the second half is a series of modern “responses”. Not being very familiar with the instruments on the 1920’s Middle East, I couldn’t really tell you what is being played but as the name suggests, they all seem to be stringed instruments, distant relations of the guitar.

The release itself, chooses not to provide sleeve notes or biographies or trivia, but just presents the music to speak for itself. Good music never needs an explanation. The chosen recordings stand up by themselves, stripped of the context of time and culture, and still appeal to these far removed ears.

They sound spontaneous and heartfelt. There are no vocals, no form, just a musician using his instrument to try and reach a higher place. In fact, the sounds on here do seem oddly reminiscent of some of the improvised experimental sounds of today, which makes the second half of the compilation, the responses, seem like a very natural appendage.

Among those chosen to record their responses are Michael Flower (ex-Vibracathedral Orchestra), Six Organs of Admittance, Sir Richard Bishop and Rick Tomlinson (previous known as Voice of the Seven Woods). The recording techniques may have come a long way since then but the spirit still remains. They are an exceptionally well chosen bunch, who all seem to bring an understanding and appreciation of what has gone before. It could have been a needless appendage to the original recordings but I actually find myself listening to it more than the original collection.

All in all, this is a pretty damn fine collection and I love the fact that the vinyl comes as a box set, the format of champions.


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