A delve into Parisian renaissance man Couronne de Merde‘s rather tangled artistic past reveals he is not quite the Muslimgauze-style provocateur the artwork for ﺍﺗﻤﻨﻰ ﻟﻮ ﺍﻥ ﺍﻟﺮﻳﺎﺡ ﺗﺠﻠﻲ ﺍﻟﺮﻣﺎﺩ would like you to think he is. The Rimbaud-quoting, Mobb Deep-sampling and highly prolific musician has a range of alter-egos and co-runs the Etang Brulant label, through which a large number of his releases under names like A Vague Gardener and No Social Theory have seen the light of day. His main influence, it would seem, is not in fact the sociopolitical situation in the Middle East, but the work of poets and authors from Dylan Thomas to Ryu Murakami; and his music has encompassed everything from doom metal to bedroom folk via creeping Lustmordian ambience.
Broken Britain Cassettes, on the other hand, is very clearly a politically inclined entity, from its Conservative Party referencing moniker to provocative titles like Britain First and the “World Service” imprint for which ﺍﺗﻤﻨﻰ ﻟﻮ ﺍﻥ ﺍﻟﺮﻳﺎﺡ ﺗﺠﻠﻲ ﺍﻟﺮﻣﺎﺩ is the second release. The first, by Calabrian artist La Santa, was a sonic dissection of the influence of organised crime in the upper echelons of Italian society that mixed tapped phone conversations, ghoulish ritual recordings and piercing electronics to dig out the filth of ingrained corruption like shattered bones from unmarked graves. ﺍﺗﻤﻨﻰ ﻟﻮ ﺍﻥ ﺍﻟﺮﻳﺎﺡ ﺗﺠﻠﻲ ﺍﻟﺮﻣﺎﺩ casts its gaze East to Lebanon and the war ravaged streets and dwellers of Beirut.
At the end of the Lebanese Civil War a “policy of forgetting” was agreed upon by the upper echelons of the country’s leadership and a process of gentrification began in Beirut by way of erasing the past fifteen years. The basis for the decision was the adage la ghalib wa la maghloub – roughly, “no victors, no vanquished.” Despite claims that “the memory of Beirut in ruins is fading,” the resultant architectural tabula rasa has in fact left many with nothing but memories. Even worse, due to the removal of an estimated 80% of the city’s historic buildings, nowhere remains in which to share or mourn them. Physically the city has changed beyond recognition but on a civilian level transcendence has not been permitted.
The man behind Couronne de Merde – whoever he is – returned to Paris from a visit to Beirut inspired to express what he’d experienced in the city. This is an observational album and not a combative one; only rarely does it evoke battle itself, with the general atmosphere borne of the aftermath, as though the ground itself is somehow oozing shell-shocked memories. The Muslimgauze comparisons do not end completely at the tape’s artwork, which makes it difficult at times to hear ﺍﺗﻤﻨﻰ ﻟﻮ ﺍﻥ ﺍﻟﺮﻳﺎﺡ ﺗﺠﻠﻲ ﺍﻟﺮﻣﺎﺩ without Bryn Jones’s shadow on your shoulder. “ﻻ ﻳﻮﺟﺪ ﻣﻮﺕ” in particular, with its collapsing building of a beat, and the way in which dust-caked street sounds sweat in the ominous heat of “ﺗﻌﻴﺶ ﺭﻏﻢ ﺍﻻﺯﺩﺭﺍﺀ” bring to mind more abstract moments in the vast Muslimgauze catalogue. Listeners, though, should expect sandblasted rumination a la Mullah Said as opposed to the warped percussive fury of Izlamaphobia.
ﺍﺗﻤﻨﻰ ﻟﻮ ﺍﻥ ﺍﻟﺮﻳﺎﺡ ﺗﺠﻠﻲ ﺍﻟﺮﻣﺎﺩ positions you as both the target and the agitator in a city’s existential crisis. Forced increasingly in upon themselves, the citizens of Beirut are now at risk of becoming more detached from each other than even before the civil war. These horrors are made audible in the music’s muzzled inhabitants as they writhe with their agonised past; prayers echo through bullet holes in spectral mosque walls and the ghosts of shelled tanks rattle over the stained and fractured earth. But even in its most frantic moments, as with the relentless “ﺧﻼﻝ ﺣﻈﺮ ﺍﻟﺘﺠﻮﻝ,” there is a dull hallucinatory quality to the atmosphere akin to an unpleasant flashback reflected thousand-fold in the gleaming glass facade of a skyscraper standing where your people once fell.