Boomkat Product Review:
Charbel Haber is Lebanese musician, performer, visual artist and composer from Beirut.
""And once again, here I am telling you to go look for the truth and its beauty in the words of dead poets, in the little tales of ravaged cities, in aborted dreams, in the melancholy of the ruins of tomorrow, in meaningless plastic totems, in the enigmatic end of restless fools.
I’ll be here long after you all disappear."
These are the first and last sentences from Charbel Haber’s latest offering, A Common Misunderstanding of the Speed of Light: a multi-media musing on the chronic and the chronological, the subversive nature of time. This combination of a record and book observes the slow passing of life and the illusion of retrogradation in his every day. Simply by documenting — via image, text and tune — Haber assigns value to everything that is cast in amber by this project. There’s an acceptance and appreciation of the destitution he witnesses, it is an homage given in overlapping forms.
ACMOTSOL has two parts. The book, hardcover in an embossed orange, features photographs and texts taken from Haber’s personal digital diary spanning from 2020 to the start of 2022. Broken into six chapters — named for the six tracks on the record — the entries are an artist’s log of sorts during a peculiar period of global hyper stagnation and navigating the aftermath of the Beirut explosions. The 96 pages highlight Haber’s interest in decay, negative space and the temporality of the human condition. Instead of presenting the images and texts as they were originally paired online, they’re reordered and recontextualized in the book. New connections are formed, as tenuous and fleeting as the content they surround. The images interrupt the texts in many instances, forcing pauses and inviting distraction.
At the center of the book is a sudden burst of orange pages, with stylized pluckings of the text framing a QR-code that grants access to the record. With the brilliant orange covers and matching innards, pregnant with the music at the core, it’s almost as if these central pages act as a way to turn the book inside out. There, the book’s purpose is altered, fixated on a mirror image of itself. It forms a self-completing arc for the project, a loop.
ACMOTSO’s second half is that mirrored album. Six tracks totalling just under 52 minutes. The music could be a continuation of his solo albums Of Palm Trees and Decompositions (2016) and It Ended Up Being a Good Day Mr. Allende (2012), an exploration into the expansiveness of seemingly simple loops of a lilting guitar. Careful electronic effects add dimensions or reground the listener. There’s a swelling of sound, the illusion of the push of space before it retracts back into itself or fades into the distance. Much like the images and texts the music complements, the songs challenge the purity of cycles. Endings are beginnings, beginnings are endings or is everything just the middle? Haber is quietly and elegantly grappling with the troublesome act of place-making. In music, in words and in visual storytelling.
ACMOTSOL is a work that can be calming or disorienting, depending on what is requested of it. Similar to the way loops and cycles can signify both meditation and mania. The tendrils of Haber’s past — his home of Beirut, fictional and real characters encountered, authors read, films watched, composers listened, walks taken — knit themselves together for a presentation of our immediate present. An evidence of a happening. A considered project of time.
All photographs, texts and music by Charbel Haber. Album mixed by Radwan Ghazi Moumneh. Design by Maziyar Pahlevan. Printed by Albe De Coker in Belgium. Description by Nereya Otieno."