Michel Banabila has been active for over thirty years, though his name has become more widespread in the last five or so. His approach is deep in the realm of electronic ambient music, and has been featured in television, film and theater. Thus, it is not surprising that Music for Viola and Electronics, a collaboration with violist Oene van Geel, is reminiscent of a soundtrack. But background music it is not.
Banabila lays down atmospherics over which van Geel slowly improvises. But this release gets particularly interesting when the duo electronically process viola recordings, to create soundscapes that would not be possible in a traditional setting. Banabila adds percussive sounds to van Geel’s rapid sawing to good effect, especially in Dondergod, one of the album’s more esoteric tracks. On the third track, Echoes from Hadhramaut, they are joined by Bruno Ferro Xavier da Silva on bass, adding a rumbling voice to the mix. Nothing but Blue Sky is a quieter, introspective piece, with van Geel double-tracked to evoke Indian textures.
Informed by free jazz, post-modern classical music, and Brian Eno, but beholden to none, these two Dutchmen have produced a minor gem of an album. Very European in feel, Music for Viola and Electronics explores dark, wintry landscapes, and stark isolation.