AMN Reviews

AMN Reviews: Merzouga – Mekong Morning Glory (Gruenrekorder)

The Mekong is one of the world´s mighty rivers, 4,000 km long, descending more than five thousand meters as it passes through seven Southeast Asian countries. Unfortunately, it has been historically burdened with memories of an ugly war. “Mekong Morning Glory” is a heart of lightness to counterbalance the dark impression left in equal measure by that war and by Francis Ford Coppola´s “Apocalypse Now”. German husband and wife soundscapers Janko Hanushevsky and Eva Pöpplein travelled through Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, waving a microphone in the air to capture sound from the river and its banks. All the “musical sounds” (his words) on the record come from Hanushevsky´s prepared bass guitar (prepared with golf balls, chop sticks, wine corks) and the long journey has been edited down to an eventful forty-nine minutes with computer software.

As sound art, it is executed in a manner similar to another husband-and-wife duo, ambient artists Celer, whose catalogue bulges with hybrid field recordings. But Merzouga are far more literal as documentarians on the one hand, and far more adventurous – mostly to their advantage – as improvising musicians. As they float down the river, temple bells ring, kids play, wood is chopped, motors putter, birds twitter and rain patters. Often letting their source material speak for itself, at other times they treat it with heavy reverb, flicks of backward-running tape, and grainy loops that whip up a full-blown monsoon halfway through. It gets similarly raucous when they pass through a coastal town, until drifting beyond the delta to the tune of wind chimes and mingling with the sea.

Stephen Fruitman

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