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Echo Transformations

by Michel Banabila

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Coral Reef 04:51
Balafon Dub 04:42
MltVz 5 03:42


Michel Banabila is an indispensable part of the Dutch experimental music scene, where he has acquired a special place with many, in the 40 years that he has been releasing music. Michel is also just as active as a composer for the theater and ballet world, as well as for TV productions, to considerable fame. The threat of drowning in the sea of his oeuvre is real in view of the unprecedented amount of output, but once sailing unmissable monolithic rock formations loom up rapidly.
Echo Transformations' is one of them. It's a magical album, where everything falls into place in a rich domain inspired by the Fourth World dimension. A world of sound arises from our imagination, stimulating the senses. A concept album where every sigh has its place and where no superfluous tone can be heard. What remains is to embrace the inevitable surrender that accompanies unstoppable change. This is Banabila at his best.

Reviews / quotes :

Veteran Dutch sound artist and composer Michel Banabila celebrates four decades of releases with this latest set of fourth world atmospheres, ferric ambience and warped electro-acoustic manipulation. RIYL Andrew Pekler, Machinefabriek or Visible Cloaks.

On "Echo Transformations", Banabila conceptualizes a virtual space and skates around ideas with freeform glee. He's been working as a composer for theater and TV for many years, and has an impressive catalogue of solo albums, as well as collaborations with Scanner and Machinefabriek - this album feels like an opportunity for him to flex his inter-dimensional muscle. The loose framework is hinged around the fourth world stylings of Jon Hassell, but Banabila has more in mind than reverberated marimba (although there's plenty of that, too).

The album's striking centerpiece is levitational long-form zoner 'The Three Stage Of Endurance', that allows cybernetic syllables to sing out over loose environmental recordings and distant tape loops. There's a breath of Oneohtrix Point Never's early material in there behind the future-ancient glow, but Banabila's music is deeper, submerged in layers of psychedelic waveform wobble and stuttering a-rhythmic percussion. 'Zoosemiotics' is a particular zoner, and plays rubbery wind tones through mouthy electrical processes, letting an inebriated electronic rhythm and dank vibraphone hits create a Badalamenti-esque backdrop.

At its best, "Echo Transformations" sounds like a spectral companion to Andrew Pekler's "Sounds From Phantom Islands" or Visible Cloaks' "Reassemblage". There's a sense that Banabila, having cut his teeth writing narrative music for other peoples' visual worlds, has far more fun imagining his own.

Michel Banabila ist Zeitenwanderer. Als Mitglied der Ambient-Tribal-Formation Chi, die im Jahr 1985 ein Tape für die Ewigkeit aufnehmen sollte, fand er erst 2016, also gut 30 Jahre später, breite Anerkennung für dieses Werk. Und rückte damit auch mit seinen Soloarbeiten ins Brennglas der avantgardistischen-Musikwelt. Längst überfällig, darf man ruhig sagen. Gerne auch herausschreien. Denn Banabila ist eine aussterbende Art von Künstler. Jener Schlag, der Tag für Tag Musik atmet, denkt und träumt. Das beweisen zahllose Selbstveröffentlichungen. Er braucht Musik, Musik braucht ihn. It’s really that wholesome.

Nun das schizophrene Jahr 2021 abzuschließen, ist sicherlich keine leichte Aufgabe. Dass Mark Van De Maat, Knekelhuis-Kurator und Labelhead, sich für Banabilas Echo Transformations entscheidet, zeugt von seinem Zeit- und Musikverständnis. Eine ganze Weile schon hat sich Knekelhuis mit innovativen Veröffentlichungen hervorgetan, aberdutzende Genres abgedeckt, auch mal Held*innen lang vergangener Tage neu aufgelegt. Das Album von Michel Banabila ist die Kumulation all dessen.

Es ist meist ruhig. Mitnichten ist es jedoch ein schweigsames Innehalten. Wie ein Korallenriff, so nämlich der erste Tracktitel („Coral Reef”), wächst das Album natürlich und organisch. Dass Hörer*innen nach einem meditativem Einstieg, spätestens aber bei „MltV 5z” Parallelen zu Peter Christophersons Werken als The Threshold Houseboys Choir ziehen werden, kann bei der Sound-Schnittmenge nur beabsichtigt sein. Banabila nutzt synthetische Stimmalgorithmen auf ganz ähnliche Weise, wie es Sleazy tat. Und eben nur dieser. Aber vielleicht folgen wir einer falschen Fährte, und Echo Transformations ist eigentlich eine inoffizielle Fortsetzung von und Hommage an Jon Hassell und Brian Eno und die von ihnen kultivierte Fourth-World-Musik. Wer weiß das schon? Solche Musik in Worte zu fassen, fühlt sich immer falsch an. Man kann nicht greifen, was sich keinen physikalischen Gesetzen unterwirft. Besser ist es daher wohl, mit diesem transzendentalen Album im Ohr ein kleines Stück des Weges gemeinsam zu gehen und sich wieder daran zu erinnern, was Unbeschwertheit nochmal war. (Andreas Cevatli)

Zo langzaamaan zijn er gelukkig steeds meer platenmaatschappijen die geïnteresseerd raken in het intrigerende werk van Michel Banabila, Rotterdamse componist en geluidstovenaar, die al veertig jaar lang het ene wonderbaarlijke meesterwerk na het andere produceert. Hij is wat lastig te categoriseren, en wellicht daardoor nog steeds niet bij een heel groot publiek bekend, maar daar is het nooit te laat voor, want de muziek van Banabila is muziek voor iedereen met open oren, en voor iedereen die bereid is om ook maar een klein beetje muzikaal avontuur in zijn leven toe te laten.
Echo Transformations is een prachtig en toegankelijk album, met soundscapes die voor een groot deel ritmisch zijn, voor een deel door derde wereld-elementen bepaald worden en voor het grootste deel door het sublieme fingerspitzengefühl van Banabila, die altijd weer precies de juiste geluidsfragmenten op de meest spannende manier weet te combineren zonder dat je ooit het gevoel hebt dat je naar een geluidscollage zit te luisteren – alles klinkt organisch, alles vloeit.
Echo Transformations is uitgebracht door Knekelhuis, en je kunt hem aanschaffen via Bandcamp, waar je zowel een digitale versie als een vinyl lp kunt kopen. Een aanrader, want deze plaat moet je ook echt wat vaker beluisteren om alle finesses te ontdekken. (Holly Moors)

Al vier decennia draait Michel Banabila mee in de experimentele muziekwereld.
Het is een man van vele talenten, zo maakt hij ook muziek voor onder andere theater, ballet en tv shows.
Nu is daar een nieuw album, waar hij weer een nieuwe wereld creëert door anderen aan elkaar te lijmen.
Op Echo Transformations glijdt de geluidskunstenaar van tropische melodiën in 'Balafon Dub' naar gruizige synths met vervreemende vocaaltjes in 'MltVz 5'. Elk nummer opent een deurtje naar een nieuwe muzikale wereld, als een soort droom.
Toch valt alles perfect samen. Zo'n droom  waarbij je baalt als je wakker wordt.  (Eline Oppewal)

Here we have a rare record of Banabila for a different label than his Tapu Records, but perhaps one that will connect him to maybe a different kind of audience. Knekelhuis I mostly know for their re-issues of Dutch electronic classics from the 80's cassette scene, and in a way, Banabila is from that very same world, except he's still doing the work. More importantly, Banabila is still doing the job very well. This new release one might use as an introduction to his sound world. The music here ranges from rusty cassette loops (in a track called just that) to exotic drumming in 'Balafon Dub', spacious flutes, synthesizers and soundscapes ('The Three Stages Of Endurance'). Yes, some of this music one could call Fourth World music, but just as well ambient, field recordings or pure electronic. In Banabila's music, the melody is a strong point of reference. It is always there, no more if something abstract is going on. Melodies on wind instruments, keyboards or strings don't matter, but it's there. Dark and moody, light and exotic, and sometimes all that combined within one piece of music. 'MltVz 5' is the album poppiest moment, with a computerized voice and strong rhythm; in a different world, this would be a hit and the go-to track for several remixes. Unfortunately, such a world no longer exists; well, or Banabila is just not part of such a world, which is equally a shame. Have you never heard his music? This album is a great one to get acquainted with his music, and if you are a fan, well, then you have this already. (FdW)

Pretty incredible that not only was Michel Banabila at the forefront of the experimental-ambient sound way back in the early ’80s, he’s been a constant force in the decades since, offering between one or six new albums per year. It’s cool to see a sonic forefather link up with Knekelhuis, a label that I’d consider to be on the forefront of forward-thinking contemporary electronic music, proof that age ain’t nothing but a number. Of course, with the rest of the world catching up to Banabila at this point, the fourth-world percussion and improvised bird-calls of “Balafon Dub” sounds less like an inconceivable style of the future and more like what everyone else is currently doing, but it still sounds mighty nice, and besides, he damn near started it. Alongside jazzy dub like “Balafon Dub”, Banabila cycles through formless electronic bliss, lengthy passages of radio-transmission static or dusty piano loops (“The Three Stages Of Endurance” and “Cassette Loops (KH042 Mix)”) and upbeat electro-folk-song grooves like “MltVz 5”, which sounds like Aïsha Devi collaborating with Donato Dozzy (a fantasy pairing I’m sad doesn’t already exist). Not a disappointed Knekelhuis fan in the house who spends some time with Echo Transformations, of that I’m certain!

De muzikale carrière van Michel Banabila duurt al bijna veertig jaar. In 1983 kwam zijn eerste album uit, Marilli, met daarop rustige elektronische muziek doorspekt met invloeden uit niet-westerse landen. De in 2021 overleden trompettist Jon Hassell had hier een paar jaar eerder de term Fourth World Music voor geïntroduceerd. Als elektronisch muzikant is Banabila in 4 decennia behoorlijk gegroeid en divers geworden. Zo maakt hij nu regelmatig muziek voor dans- en balletvoorstellingen. Op verzoek van het Amsterdamse label Knekelhuis keert hij even terug naar zijn begintijd. Je zou Echo Transformations, met tracks uit 2020, en 2021, een soort  ‘Marilli 2.0’ kunnen noemen. Direct vanaf het begin word je meegezogen in een exotische wereld. Bij het tweede nummer ontwaak je met ritmische balafon klanken uit West-Afrika. Hoogtepunt is het elf minuten durende the Three Stages Of Endurance. Hier is Banabila schatplichtig aan Jon Hassell, met repeterende minimale elektronica en langzaam van kleur veranderende drones. Slow music in optima forma. In Zoosemiotics sta je in een tropisch regenwoud met vallende regendruppels en schreeuwende vogels. Hogere exotica. In de laatste track toont Banabila zich van een andere kant. Als een volleerd ambient master vermengt hij zijn minimale elektronische klanken met onverstaanbaar vervormde stem samples. De perfecte soundtrack om het nieuwe jaar rustig mee te beginnen. (Oscar Smit)

HHV Mag:
Die Releases von Michel Banabila zu überblicken, ist ein Fass ohne Boden. Seit 40 Jahren veröffentlicht der Niederländer nun Musik, produziert für Theater, Ballett, Fernsehen, Videokunst und veröffentlicht ohne Unterlass Schallplatten auf seinem Label Tapu Records. Alle paar Jahre werden seine Ergüsse dann auf bei Bureau B erscheinenenden Compilations zusammengefasst. Zuletzt: »Wah-Wah Whispers« für die Jahre 2013-2020. Nun veröffentlicht Knekelhuis ein neues Album des inzwischen 60-jährigen Musikers. Es ist ein erstes Highlight, dieses noch jungen Jahres. Musikalisch knüpft es an die von Jon Hassell und Brian Eno formulierte Idee einer primitive Ursprünglichkeit und raffinierte Technologie verbindende Fourth World-Music und somit auch an die Musik auf »Wah-Wah Whispers« an. Er belässt es in diesen »abstrakten Ethno-Colllagen« (ich klaue mir diesen Begriff jetzt mal von Tim Caspar Boehme) nicht bei ambienter Esoterik, sondern streut Dub und groovende Drums ein, was diesem Album eine neue Dringlichkeit gibt. »Echo Transformations« wirkt dabei so in sich geschlossen und stimmig, dass ich trotz seines vielgelobten Frühwerks »Marilli« behaupten möchte, dass ihm hier sein bisher bestes Album gelungen ist. (Sebastian Hinz)

Dutch experimentalist Michel Banabila reasserts his place at the forefront of the scene with yet another of his masterful fun lengths. He has been crafting music for more than four decades and over those years has picked up a dedicated fan base while also composing for theatre, TV and ballet. His vast oeuvre retains dizzyingly high levels of quality assurance and Echo Transformations is another high-water mark "inspired by the Fourth World dimension." It's a melange of lush harmonics and soft but heavy broken beats, tropical synth work and warped electro-acoustic sounds that manage to feel hugely organic, ancient and tribal and synthetic and futuristic all at once. Turn on, tune in and zone out to this one for a brilliantly psychedelic experience.

Where to start with Dutch sound artist Michel Banabila, a guy who’s been in the electronic music trenches for longer than most people producing in his wake have been alive? Well, how about Echo Transformations, his latest full-length and first for fellow Low Country forward-thinkers Knekelhuis, a label I came to via Patricia Kokett’s brilliant Bizarr? My thanks to Matt Korvette for tipping me off that this is a wonderful fourth world excursion from a veteran composer who covers a ton of ground across these eight tracks, from the low-end shake of “Balafon Dub” to the swirling 11-minute “The Three Stages of Endurance” to the jungle trudge of “Zoosemiotics (Short Mix” to the plaintive piano plinks of “Cassette Loops (KH042 Mix).” Considering Banabila has been putting out music at a steady clip since 1983, Echo Transformations should serve as but a tip of the iceberg — and considering how much there is to sit with here alone, the mind races at what remains unheard. Let the deep dive commence. (Patrick Masterson).

Uzun zamandır hayranı ve takipçisi olduğumuz, deneysel müziğin değerli ismi Michel Banabila kainatın en esrarengiz ve büyüleyici albümlerinden birini bir süre önce arkadaşımız Knekelhuis ’den yayınladı. Marilli ve Trespassing’den sonra bu müstesna çalışmayı arşivimize aldık, tavsiye ediyor ve her fırsatta dinliyoruz. Tanımlayamadığımız, merak uyandıran, farklı boyutlardan fısıldandığını sandığımız o sesler, her nereden geliyorsalar hoş geldiler, iyi geldiler 🤍 — 🌬 May all the sounds and echoes transform you! Deeply In love with this album!

Dutch sound artist Michel Banabila has a rich back catalog dating back to 1983 (at least 71 albums plus numerous EPs, singles, and compilations). His latest outing, Echo Transformations, is his first release on Dutch label Knekelhuis. The eight compositions are different experiments with loops, samples, and reverb, with several tracks being static soundscapes where unidentifiable processed sounds pop in and out. A couple, “Balafon Dub” and the title track, are looped percussive vibraphone samples that made me think of Harry Partch. The opus “The Three Stages of Endurance” combines hollow breathy samples, synths, and repeated loops that slowly shift recalling some of Ralph Lundsten’s early work. Then there is the primordial tribal “Zoosemiotics” where Banabila uses fire and animal sounds to build a rhythm. Eventually you encounter “MltVz 5,” that approximates a rock song plus processed female vocals. The album closes with “In Other Words (Web SDR Mix),” an icy cold, ethereal piece with snatches of male and female conversation and perhaps Morse Code. I have to say that Echo Transformations is a stimulating glimpse into Banabila’s world and genius as a composer. Always pushing the limits of music, sound events in time and space. (Henry Schneider)

A visit to this hard-working artist’s studio is always fun and worth the bike ride, as Echo Transformations proves again how Banabila is at his best creating his characteristic fourth world atmospheres infused by warped electro-acoustic manipulation. Listening to it brings associations with Martin Denny’s exotica but then tele-transported to the present day. Let’s hope though that the sounds of birds and insects, intricately woven into the soundscapes, are still more than just echoes from a modernist past. I love the artwork by the way! Made by Kezia Phillips, it’s spot-on when you consider the title of the album. (Mariette Groot)

HHV MAG LIST (Top 50 for 2022)
An actual real new album by Dutch grandmaster Michel Banabila, who rose to fresh fame in the wake of the rediscovery of Fourth World music sometime in the mid-2010s. »Echo Transformations« is for everyone as well who still love their John Hassell, Andrew Pekler and Steve Reich. Marimbas and distant birds let listeners know right away where they are. But that's not why this album is here. It's because MIchel Banabila succeeds in translating these much-used ethno tropes into driving grooves, giving his sound an urgency that has nothing to do with the interchangeability of some of the exotic ambient releases of the last ten years. (Pippo Kuhzart)

Het relatief lange ‘The Three Stages of Endurance’ is met zijn vernuftige geluidswereld zonder meer een hoogtepunt op dit toch al bijzonder sterke album. (Ben Taffijn)


released December 13, 2021

Mastering & remastering by Wouter Brandenburg
All composed & performed by Michel Banabila
Executive producer: Mark van de Maat
Artwork by Keziah Philipps
Design by Steele Bonus

Catalog nr. KH042
2021 ℗ Knekelhuis


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Michel Banabila Rotterdam, Netherlands


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