Death Waltz is going to make Record Store Day (April 22) worth your while this year. The much-loved label is releasing a package consisting of Evrim Ersoy’s new short film, Abdullah, as a DVD along with Antoni Maiovvi and the Karakura Orchestra’s stunning score for it on very limited edition vinyl.
Maiovvi’s score is an intense pairing of the darker palette of synth sounds for which the Giallo Disco Records co-founder is known, and his experimentation with traditional Middle Eastern instrumentation. (You can hear the score via Mondo and/or watch the film at the bottom of this page ahead of Saturday.)
Because Abdullah is a dark film, it’s seemingly right up Maiovvi’s alley. It takes place in London and involves a Turkish mini-cab driver who’s largely alienated from everyone in his life. That is, until a troubled young man hails his cab, setting the stage to give the driver the opportunity to change his life.
The film creates a natural pairing for Maiovvi’s score, which exhibits everything from fuzzy, sharp contemplations all the way to full-throttled machinations of giant techno blasts. The listener gets the sense, as I imagine the cab driver does, that time is of the essence; that a decision about the future must be made. There has to be a solution to this horror. Through his score, Maiovvi offers an energetic — but never frenetic — foray into some place inside ourselves. We too can figure our shit out; even the problems hiding in the darkest crevices of our polluted, but not hopeless, souls.
It’s a fully transcendent 28-minute score with roots going back to Maiovvi’s time living in Berlin in recent years. (The film itself is only about 12 minutes, so you won’t get a full sense of Maiovvi’s corpus for Abdullah unless you buy and listen to the vinyl.)
During an interview in New York for a forthcoming feature, Maiovvi (AKA Anton Maoif) told me about how the score came to be.
When living in Germany, Maiovvi was experimenting with the sounds of Turkish radio — the radio clips are the “Karakura Orchestra.” (Maiovvi tells me that a karakura is a night demon that visits you in your dreams.)
He then augmented the clips from the radio with a battalion of Middle Eastern sample packs — these packs are what software synths use to generate sounds. With an instrument set in tow, Maiovvi was able to use his synthesizer to create the compelling array of musical expression we have on Abdullah. Not content to stay in the box, Maiovvi supported the cues’ kinetic percussion with “a bunch of stuff I had around my house that I was recording live.”
At some point Ersoy approached Maiovvi and asked him to write a score for a film he was working on. Maiovvi knew his Turkish experiments would work, and saw to it to pare it to fit Abdullah. Sometimes it’s nice to have an entire hard drive’s worth of quality music just sitting around. (One wonders what other beautiful gems Maoivvi has sitting in his virtual vaults.)
I consider the score as a whole expression, so I’m not as interested in dissecting each cue. However, a few worth mentioning are representative of at least some of the mood of the work.
“Wandering” has a large, crunchy rhythmic presence that reminds me a tad of the Chemical Brothers’ mid-1990s oeuvre, although with much less of a rock infrastructure. This cut kind of lives within itself, like a wanderer whose caught in an infinite loop that definitely does not include a palpable destination.
A quieter cue is “Pick Up,” one of the score’s demonstrably foreboding cuts. The underbelly is a rotating, ominous synth that sounds like an evil Hammond, punctuated by a stark stab of percussion and intermittent cold strings.
Opener “For Glory” and closer “Magician’s Guilt,” are cut from the same cloth as each other. The former relies heavily on healthy conversation between traditional Middle Eastern instrumentation and methods and a banger backbeat. The latter follows a similar trajectory, although this has more of an unholy, Mezzanine vibe.
The fruit of Maiovvi’s labors in Berlin are particularly haunting — as I mentioned, there’s a darkness there that matches the film’s despairing existential focus — but the rhythm and mood of the compositions is often high-energy. The relationship between the two can be jarring outside the context of the film — listening to it on the subway at night is a fascinating experience — but within the context of Abdullah’s often deranged dark-night-of-the-night-driving-soul, it’s hand in glove.
You can buy the vinyl at your favorite independent record stores. Or, rather, you might be able to if you get to the store early enough.
(Editor’s Note: Stay tuned for a full interview with Maiovvi. We met up this past week on the Lower East Side at a dive bar with a leopard-print pool table and fake palm trees.)