Michel Banabila has been releasing music relentlessly over the past several years. Along with numerous EP and full albums, he has also put out a series of single, download-only tracks, eleven of which are collected on Singles (2020-2022). Together, the pieces showcase the wide stylistic modes and the various configurations — solos, duos, and trios — in which Banabila operates. The collection nevertheless holds together in its underlying adherence to Banabila's finely honed balance of richly produced ambient sounds, finely wrought layers and disjointed structures.
For the latter, take rhythm. Rhythm seems to be a uniting theme, though it only rarely features as the obvious, repetitive, head-bobbing backbone to the music. Rather, it is feigned, broken, oblique, hidden and hinted. Still, whether in implied or fragmented presence, it is there. So, too, are the textured sound environments that Banabila is known for, as in the alternately gooey and crackled "States of Consciouness", a duo with Gareth Davis, which elides from fine crumbles to hollow field recordings and a scraping blur. Or, listen to the rain-crinkled and cavernous "The Woods", which features Alex Haas and Bill Laswell. This one unwraps slowly and meticulously and runs deep. In its natural evocations, it complements other the tracks that combine that woody mysticism with polyrhythms ("Yek Nefes") or soft glistens and whispers of augmented Arabic scales ("Burgeon A" and "Burgeon B") .
Two later pieces with Robert Jarvis also stand out. On the first, "An Agreement of Sorts", Jarvis' trombone punches out of Banabila's environments with the mystically comfort but loneliness of a fog-horn cutting through sheets of rain. The second showcases the trombone — pure, looped, doubled and fragmented — against the backdrop of some perplexing processing by Banabila. This is one of the more jagged pieces on this album.
For those drawn to pure Banabila compositions, the album is bookended by solo tracks, "Orbital Resonance" and "Oblong Hobnob", each of which slowly develops out of a hazy suspension into a soft, mournful realization. The first involves a haunting, brittle piano and various other elements that entangle and unfold. The second focuses more on electrically derived tones that recognizable (possibly mimicked) instruments, and for that sounds more satisfyingly liquid.
All in all, Singles is a compilation primarily of discretely conceived and recorded tracks, but it is much more coherent and engaging than that fact suggests. This not just a fine collection, but a fine, and revealing, album.
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