Scott Monteith - Qawwali Quatsch

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  • Qawwali is an Islamic spiritual music popular in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It's traditionally ritualistic, created by a troupe of musicians (or "party") for group participation. Vocals are fundamental. One singer leads a qawwali party, which comprises several vocalists, tabla and dholak percussionists and harmonium players. Qawwali music is designed to rouse its audience into a state of ecstasy or trance through progressive repetition and improvised rhythms. It can be quite exuberant, joyous and endearing—even for a secular Westerner watching clips on YouTube. That's what inspired Qawwali Quatsch, Scott Monteith's 11th album and the first under his given name. It's his interpretation of qawwali music, using a cut-up studio approach more fitting of the dub technician's own work as Deadbeat. But Qawwali Quatsch sees Monteith step out of his comfort zone, moving deep into the dense, ruminative pieces. It's not traditional qawwali, hence the self-deprecating "quatsch" (German for "nonsense"). But the album imitates certain qawwali characteristics, giving the music a mystical and provocative essence. Take the structure: it's really one continuous composition that seems to expand as it progresses. "Ghazal 1" is significantly compacted, sounding claustrophobic in comparison to the bright, weightless "Ghazal 6." Monteith also uses singing (by Sophie Trudeau from Godspeed You! Black Emperor) and some instrumentation throughout, invoking qawwali without actually sounding like it. Rather than the vocals or instruments being pronounced, they're nearly pulverised into dust and whipped into billowing clouds of sound. In qawwali's male-orientated tradition, Trudeau's presence is even more significant. Her howls lift the album out of its heaviest, most oppressive moments, as on "Ghazal 2" and "Ghazal 3." If "Ghazal 6" denotes the encroaching moment of enlightenment, then "The Unveiling Of The Veiled" takes you there. The song's vocal sample (likely a reading of the ancient Sufi text it's named after) is an awakening from Qawwali Quatsch's entrancing loops. The album ends on a lovely and overtly Western classical piece, thanks to Trudeau's poignant violin. It's empowering in an indescribable way. Such payoffs come because the album is a holistic experience, not simply a bundle of tracks. Monteith made it with the same meditative appeal of, say, The Infinity Dub Sessions, though its unusual concept makes it less immediately rewarding. Heard in the right headspace, though, Qawwali Quatsch can be a moving body of work.
  • Tracklist
      01. Ghazal 1 02. Ghazal 2 03. Ghazal 3 04. Ghazal 4 05. Ghazal 5 06. Ghazal 6 07. The Unveiling Of The Veiled 08. Ghazal 7