Boomkat Product Review:
Pete Swanson and Jed Bindeman's Freedom To Spend label return with probably our favourite on the label thus far (and that really is saying something - each one has been a peach) - Richard Horowitz’s incredible suite of electro acoustic 4th world music, ‘Eros In Arabia’ ; written for flute and Prophet 5 and rife with mercurial, avian flights of fancy. This one is a proper find - especially if you’re obsessed with Dariush Dolat-Shahi’s more or less peerless Electronic Music, Tar and Sehtar, or indeed Byrne & Eno’s ‘My Life in the Bush of Ghosts’ or Craig Leon’s ‘Nommos’.
Horowitz has had something of a dual career - on the one hand via this little known but pioneering kind of work, and on the other scoring films in Hollywood (including work on Bertolucci's The Sheltering Sky). The cinematic quality of his material is evident here, but the subtle interweaving of Eastern influences with Western production techniques is incredibly rich with detail and imbues proceedings with an alien, fourth world quality that’s hard to place. Just like Dolat-Shahi managed to intersperse traditional Persian instrumentation with modular overlays in a way that didn’t ever feel contrived, Horowitz’s application of technique comes across as completely intuitive. As the label explain:
"Working in natural succession from end to beginning, “Elephant Dance” demonstrates the central synth and ney node to explore energetic sound patterns Horowitz imagined to be played in the 16th century on the island of Java, around the time Sufi’s may have arrived in Indonesia. Delicately trampling the twenty minute mark, the piece offers an immersive climate of microtones that might, with the primordial matter of love, alter DNA. “Baby Elephant Magic” is “Elephant Dance” but sped up— producing digital baubles that sound less like an Indonesian forest, more like an urban hive of mechanical insect interaction.
The piano on “23/8 for Conlon Nancarrow,” with John Cage technique at play, is played “as fast as possible by a human.” The sounds are driven to derail from the space time continuum. On “Never Tech No Foreign Answer,” a cheap cassette recorder microphone captures the Prophet-5 left to the devices of its master’s inner clock, taking on a frenzied sound form that vibrates in place before bouncing off the tape case walls. Chaos is concentric.
“Queen of Saba” incorporates the vocals of long-time collaborator, Sussan Deyhim. Described as one of Iran’s most potent voices in exile, Deyhim’s work is in both the tradition of Sufis and the late feminist poet, Forough Farrokhzad. Recently Deyhim and Horowitz worked together on a multi-media performance based upon Forrokhzad’s Iranian New Wave film, The House Is Black. Here Deyhim performs a taḥrīr where vocals go low to high without any semantically meaningful words. Horowitz’s associations with great cultural icons of the Middle East, like these women, soften (in)appropriations.
Less aggressive than its predecessors, “Eros Never Stops Dreaming” introduces the bendir frame drum, the feathery wind of the ney floating above its bowing rhythm with effortless mathematics. “Bandit Nrah Master of Rajasthan” begins where the album ends, an ode to Shakuhachi flute players known to indulge in both trance-inducing circular breathing and espionage.
Horowitz is linked with the worldly sound seeking circles of minimalist and avant-garde New York City musicians, especially Lou Harrison and La Monte Young, with whom Horowitz shared Shandar as a record label momentarily. He recorded and toured with Jon Hassell and collaborated with David Byrne and Brian Eno, Jean-Philippe Rykie, and Bill Laswell. Along his travels he befriended Brion Gysin and Paul Bowles, the latter whom mentored Horowitz over decades of correspondence, some of which documents the making of Eros and comes quite literally with this edition.
A record of physical and intellectual love for Arabia, FTS extends this flowing forward and backward – a shimmer that reverses the backward spelling of Ztiworoh. Eros is presented in the ever present. To borrow from a song title, Horowitz remains gainfully employed as an “inter-dimensional travel agent.””