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Merzouga - 52°46’ North and 13°29’ East - Music for Wax Cylin [Gruenrekorder - 2014]

Gruenrekorder presents 52°46’ North and 13°29’ East - Music for Wax Cylinders by Merzouga. The duo of Eva Poplin and Janko Hanushevsky offer a single track CD utilizing historic wax-cylinders from the Ethnologisches Museum Dahlem in Berlin. Gruenrekorder, an imprint with a penchant for field-recordings, always seems to have an interesting story behind the making of each of their releases. This disc is no exception.

As the story goes, Erich Moritz von Hornbostel was a musicologist who, due to poor health, was virtually homebound. Despite his predicament, he was fortunate to to be put in charge of a massive field-recording project. At edict of the Prussian Emperor during the early 1900’s, all German trading and scientific expeditions were to be recorded via wax cylinders. Over 16,000 of these wax cylinders came under the care of Hornbostel and over 100 years later some of these recordings were made available to Merzouga.

Before delving into the music presented, I must comment on the presentation, which is very top notch. The disc comes in a full-color digipack with a 12 page booklet featuring photos of some of the cylinders used.

52°46’ North and 13°29’ East - Music for Wax Cylinders contains a single 38:42 track recorded live in concert at Alte Feuerwache, Cologne in the Fall of 2012. The duo delivers instrumental passages (predominantly and electric bass guitar and minimal electronics) interspersed with a number of recordings from the wax cylinders. Throughout the piece you’ll find children singing, people speaking, yodeling, chanting, and bands playing, captured on wax cylinders in various countries from around the world. And of course, it goes without saying, that there are copious amounts of wax cylinder surface noise to be found on the recording, which a very much enjoy. The sounds go from being straightly played to being manipulated through delays and other effects. Hanushevsky’s bass interludes are found throughout the piece, which often play out in dense reverberating waves. There’s also a lot of wild string plucking and seeming electro-acoustic parts either coming from the recordings or from one of the duo. It’s hard to tell sometimes. The pairing of the instruments with the recordings makes for a listening experience that goes from jovial to haunting to somber. To be able to see those wax cylinders on stage must’ve have been quite a spectacle.

Another solid release from the folks at Gruenrekorder.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Hal Harmon
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