One of the most surprising things that has happened in DIY music over the last few years has been the re-emergence of the cassette tape. Far less expensive to produce than vinyl, it has been the go to medium of many bands who are starting out and want to have something physical to sell at their gigs. This has happened to such an extent that I have bought myself a tape deck… at the same charity shop where I donated my previous one a decade earlier.
This desire to have something relatively simple to sell may have been in the mind of The Myrrors’ N.F. Safi (aka Nik Rayne) when he started his Naujawanan Baidar project in 2016 but, it seems, there were deeper reasons for him to use the cassette as the manner of transmitting his music.
As an Afghan American Safi has sought to go back to his Middle Eastern heritage to explore, and reflect, the Afghan cassette culture of the 1960s, 70s and 80s; both through the style and atmosphere of the music he produces. In doing so he has also led me to reassess the music of The Myrrors themselves… something that I will come back to later.
The first thing to say here is that I have not managed to listen to the two volumes of music on their preferred medium, but can say that the digital download files do portray that sense that you are listening to something that in on sense is quite rudimentary… yet in another sense is something that you could never describe as crude.
This authentic sound comes partially from Safi’s use of Afghan tapes as source material, which he has mixed and manipulated with his own drones and fuzzed-out effects; also using traditional Afghan instruments. The result is something that is in many ways quite unlike anything I have heard before. The combination of the original lo-fi material placed through a prism of a contemporary mind gives these albums a unique feel which in many ways is quite difficult grasp… never mind explain.
If you were listening two these two releases together I would imagine that you would guess in which order they were put out. Volume 1 feels more fragmented in places, although there are also tracks, most notably
‘Aftab Zadagi/Signal Disintegration’, which is a terrific long drone piece which also has a strange motorik beat to it which at the same time also drives the number… although certainly not in the hectic manner of much of that style.
The overall feeling of the album is that it has most definitely taken you somewhere else, but not anywhere that is fully tangible. There is a real liminal quality to this music that I find beautiful… beautiful because it helps you to explore the inner/ outer reaches of your mind… and maybe even your soul. Certainly this music lands you in an interstitial space where rationality seems to shape-shift and melt into something that could be construed as spiritual by those who wish to see it that way.
In contrast Volume 2 feels as if the journey towards Afghanistan is more accomplished. The use of vocal samples giving some of the tracks more of a grounding. There is also a heavier and more hectic feel to some of the music here with numbers like ‘Symmetry of Knives’ and ‘Panj Ruz Pesh’ having a real energy to them… a momentum which sees the tracks move along at a real pace.
Here you get another side of Safi’s music… one that is more complex and dense. As you lose yourself in it you find yourself thinking that you are inside some torment that is heavier and more intense than you thought it would get. After Volume 1 this really does hit you quite powerfully in a way which is also outside your experience, yet does feel more corporeal than it’s predecessor.
That said there is also something of a ying/ yang element with these two releases. The first has an enchantment to it that leaves the listener floating in some sort of suspended intermediate dimension in which all round is a fog of unknowing. While Volume 2 feels more grounded and full-on, mutually in places. Yet each also contain the qualities of the other to some extent as well.. and this perhaps goes some way to explain my initial thought that this was music that was probably more complex than I first imagined.
But back to The Myrrors…
There are times in both these albums where I felt that I could be listening that great collective… it was like every now and again the frequency alighted on the band, and then tuned out again.
This was something of a revelation for me, because I have always aligned certain aspects of The Myrrors’ sound to their Arizona roots… the desert playing a part in the magical sounds which they produce. I can now see that part of this mix is coming from Safi’s Afghan roots too… this somehow makes a very interesting band even more fascinating and perhaps another step in explaining their own unique sound.
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