Josetxo Grieta - Euskal Semea (w.m.o/recordings CD)

Last of the recordings Mattin sent my way is from the Josetxo Grieta trio, which features Mattin as well as Josetxo Anitua and Inigo Eguillor. The premise for "Euskal Semea" is that the group were invited to do a reinterpretation of the Velvet Underground's "European Son" in tribute to the VU's legendary self-titled album on which the song in question can be found. The title of Grieta's version is derived by translating "European Son" into the Basque language Euskera and the literal translation then turns back into "Basque Son", thus giving the new piece a decidedly personal ramification for all musicians involved.
Presented here are two different versions of "€peear Semea", one for (supposedly) 20 guitars, three watering cans and voice and the other for drums, voice, radio and guitar. In the first version, seven different takes on the song are edited together to form a deliriously swirling din that only really resembles "European Son" in terms of anarchistic aesthetic. Apparently the original bassline is retained and worked around but even that is a challenge to dig out (although it really is there throughout all 22 minutes). I can't confirm for you if that many guitars and watering cans were actually used but with all the overdubbing taking place here, who knows for sure. What does come across is a slow-lurching blackened sun drone, akin to taking a bath in an oil can during a thunderstorm. Digital-sounding blips and whirrs are puked out every so often and quickly re-ingested like a hurricane simultaneously sucking in and tossing out everything it comes into contact with. The result is impressive, if not overly long, and maybe even something that Lou Reed himself could've come to grips with, though I doubt it. Also noteworthy is the fact that all guitars were tuned to La Monte Young's "just intonation" technique. Hmmmmm... "€peear Semea II" is described in the booklet as "a Basque [asking] another Basque if being hit and hitting back is the only way to learn in this mousetrap that is carefully prepared for us". I'm of no qualification to answer that so I'll just stick to the music (which I'm still of no qualification to talk about but hey, you've gotten this far, you might as well finish reading!). This 28-minute piece is largely percussion oriented, with Eguillor delivering thundering, hypnotic, and downright lively rhythms from the drum kit, an impressive feat of stamina in that he's able to keep the energy level up for a good 20 minutes. Other sounds accompanying him are Mattin and Anitua's treated guitars and voices, both shouting lyrics in Spanish and churning out malevolent bolts from their strings. The last nine minutes are a sort of post-apocalyptic coda to the proceedings, all three sounding down and out and letting out final gasps from their instruments and/or throats before the sounds finally collapse on themselves. I probably liked "II" better but that's also because it was better at immediately holding my attention. With more listenings I'm sure I'll be able to appreciate the intricate workings of the first version just as well.
I don't know if it bears repeating anymore but like all Mattin/w.m.o/r product, you can obtain the tracks here for free on Mattin's website, along with all pertinent liner note information. A lot of people say a lot of things about Mattin but what strikes me most is the attention to detail given to each one of the releases, despite the fact that anybody can go grab them off his website at will. They all come with (or in) thick, glossy booklets or fold-outs with text and photos and various epherma. I encourage you to at least investigate his website and send some cash his way if you like what you hear. I can think of less deserving parties!


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