“Bittersweet Melodies” reviewed by Aural Aggravation

Given Ran Slavin’s broad artistic pursuits, which span video installation, sound and film, and his far-reaching interests which manifest in the exploration of the tensions between opposites, Bittersweet Melody is something of a summation of his preoccupations.

Just as ‘bittersweet’ is one of those words that encapsulates contradiction and juxtaposition, so Slavin’s latest album is built on contrasting sounds and forms. Culled and curated from pieces of work from Slavin’s archives and a release from over a decade ago, the material which comprises Bittersweet Melodies has been disassembled, reassembled and generally re-rendered.

A mellow organic drone hovers and hums through ‘Saturday’s Dress’, but the ambience is disrupted by very mechanical-sounding pings and spring and microtonal bleeps by way of irregular rhythms. A repetitive thrumming hum provides the framework for the minimal yet dense and sinister ambient hip-hop of ‘Category: Murdered Entertainers’, with distant snippets of exotica adding a heightened sense of the unfamiliar to its curious texture. Elsewhere, polyrhythmic percussion collides with stuttering trip-hop beats and eastern-flavoured scales entwine luscious soundtrack strings. Frenetic drum ‘n’ bass ballasts against shimmering electronic froth and looped vocal fragments wash in and out of rumbling scrapes, fear chords, dissonance and a rich soup of sound from all corners of the globe and of the recesses of the mind. Woozy ambience and glitchtronica waft into passages dominated by dank pulsations and murky, shadowy shapes.

The fragments evoke neither nostalgia nor excitement, but a sense of displacement, or alienation. How else does one respond to pan-cultural motifs overlaid and strewn with dancehall music and digital blips but with a sense of vague bewilderment? Slavin does not contrive to create a typical collage mash-up: Bittersweet Melodies is something altogether more subtle in many respects. Moreover, the contrasts and oppositions are moulded and melted into one another to as to become complimentary. Strange, disorientating and uncomfortable, with a lot happening simultaneously, but complimentary nevertheless.

via Aural Aggravation