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Boomkat Product Review:
Using her grandmother's accordion, glockenspiel, toy piano and music boxes, Beirut-based puppeteer and artist Yara Asmar enchants with her ferric, homespun debut. RIYL Colleen, Susumu Yokota, múm.
Yara Asmar's stripped-down collection of home recorded cockle-warmers establishes itself apart from so much whimsical ambient music right now because it's got a firm sense of its own narrative. Maybe it's down to Asmar's history as a video artist and puppeteer, but there's an eccentric mischievousness to her deceptively simple vignettes that makes them so compelling. She uses a bare-boned setup, recording a hodgepodge of collected instruments (including her grandmother's accordion she found in the attic, and "various deconstructed and disassembled toy pianos and music boxes") to cassette recorder and her cellphone, interspersed with field recordings from around Lebanon.
The album's opening act sets a dramatic scene, with Asmar's toybox instrumentation used to evoke memories of Jan Švankmajer shorts and Brothers Quay animations. It's a mood that's not a million miles from legendary Icelandic band múm's brittle soundscapes or Susumu Yokota's sample-based atmospheres. As the album dissolves into its central act, Asmar turns recordings of local church hymns into lullabies and waltzes. These moments are where Asmar comes into her own, tape-warbled and haunted reflections of a half-remembered past that's like watching a cracked old film reel burn to dust.