Boomkat Product Review:
Captivating, eerily disorienting collage of cut-up vocals and music recorded from Lebanese radio during the country’s civil war circa 1975-1990, broken down and re-arranged from over 300 hours of material
“’In this 24-minute composition, released here in its original name for the first time, Yassin encapsulates and condenses the aural and sonic landscapes experienced by those who bore witness to the war. In the 1980s, while the Lebanese Civil War, which ravaged the country between 1975 and 1990, was raging, television but particularly transistor radios were the only means through which people heard the news during interminable periods of power cuts or waiting in basement shelters.
The audio material was collected by Yassin on his regular trips to the dispersed and neglected archives of militias and political parties, radio and TV stations, and record shops across Lebanon. Built from over 300 hours of material, Yassin has woven together a composition using political speeches; radio and television commercials; news flashes and jingles; local 80s pop music; dubbed Japanese anime songs; propaganda, resistance, and revolutionary party songs; snippets from Ziad Rahbani plays and many more. The recordings in CW Tapes are the sonic equivalents of Proust’s madeleines to any individual who was old enough to remember the war and its immediate aftermath; they effortlessly conjure the collective memory of children, teenagers and adults alike. Commercials, songs and speeches collide and intertwine as if Yassin had plugged a radio tuner into his mind, sounding out a deeply personal sonic terrain that echoes the hidden sonic memories of his contemporaries in which sounds ebb and flow as if they were heard in a dream (or nightmare).
Beside the diversity of its sounds, what is most striking in this record is the minute attention to the musicality of the different recordings Yassin uses, whether they are propaganda pieces, vocal patterns or news jingles. What you hear in the beginning of the CW Tapes, for example, is Raed Yassin’s fascination for the different political and musical figures that populated the Lebanese media landscape across the 1980s. In this bewildering introduction, he highlights the absurdity of the war by lacing together a political speech given by Bachir Gemayel (a senior member of the right-wing Christian Phalange party and the founder and commander of the Lebanese Forces militia during the early years of the Lebanese Civil War who was killed in 1982 when he was elected president) with a frivolous and upbeat pop song by Lebanese pop singer Sammy Clark whose tunes are heard at different moments in the piece. The composition unfurls an array of overlapping tonalities and textures as well as a glossolalia made of processed voices that inhabited the archaic technologies of the time. Words become increasingly indecipherable as the piece progresses, with a beautiful passage in which Yassin isolates sighs and breaths — as if to mark moments of respite during the war— until another commercial or pop song is blasted at full volume again. We can also hear what has become a staple in Yassin’s other musical projects, which is the sporadic inclusion of him singing or whistling over songs. In his continuous efforts to mine and work through the sonic archives of Lebanon’s recent past, the CW Tapes is possibly Yassin’s most personal output to date.‘’
Rayya Badran, Beirut, January 2019”