Boomkat Product Review:
The first of two exhaustive 10-disc volumes of brutalist, experimental free-jazz-noise from Israeli-Swedish artist and leftist activist Dror Feiler, who's spent a lifetime fighting fascism and campaigning for Palestinian liberation, reflecting his philosophy in music and art that constantly challenges perceptions.
'Maavak' means struggle in Hebrew, but it's also the de-facto name of '70s Marxist-Leninist Israeli group the Revolutionary Communist Alliance, who used the word to title its influential anti-colonialist journal. Feiler has been on the front lines of the anti-fascist struggle for decades; his parents were both left-wing activists, and Feiler himself, who was among the first defectors from the Israeli Defense Force, has spoken clearly and constantly about his dedication to resistance. In 2004, he worked alongside his wife on an installation called 'Snow White and the Madness of Truth', which was subsequently vandalized by Israel's then ambassador to Sweden for supposedly glorifying suicide bombers. And this level of expression and condemnation of colonization is deeply embedded in his music. "My music and words should function as a tool kits for an anti-fascist existence," he wrote in 2000. "My music is a strategy and subversion, my compositions and writings should escape even my own intentions; the more unplanned uses that my music and words take on the more it pleases me."
'Music & Noise 1980-2023 Volume 1' is the first of two 10CD sets, released on Feiler's new archival label The Celestial Fire (the name of his first solo album), an iDEAL sublabel. It collects works from across his career, highlighting collaborations with organist Hans-Ola Ericsson, Talinn's Ensemble for New Music, Black Page Orchestra, Austrian chamber orchestra Klangforum Wien, Swiss new music group Ensemble Contrechamp, Poland's Kwartludium Ensemble and many others. Feiler's musical philosophy is relatively simple, his belief in the destruction of hierarchies sits is at its core, and he sees contemporary classical music, jazz, ambient, techno, jungle, noise and musique concrète as part of the same conversation. But he opposes perfection, preferring to pursue unpredictable outcomes and new ways of working. "We are becoming deaf and musically unconscious when we hear nothing but perfect harmony, perfect structures, just new academism, repetition and its refrain," he explains. "This is the potential fascism in music." His antidote is chaos, which his music reproduces wholeheartedly, whether it's a 1985 piece made from doom-y organ blasts and clattering percussion ('SchlafBRand II'), a chilling, folk inspired solo sax workout ('Gale2'), or a sand-blasted, near-hour-long oscillator-led basement punk workout (2008's 'Music Is Casterated Noise').
The music is separated into handy thematic packages. The first CD is Feiler's organ-based material, the second a collaboration with Raymond King, Tommy Bjork, Serge Bachtasarian, Erik Drescher and Lilian von Hausen entitled 'DIMMAA', the third two lengthy compositions for clarinets and bells, the fourth a series of works for bells and music boxes, the fifth collaborations with various ensembles, the sixth 'Music Is Casterated Noise', the seventh a series of solo horn jams, the eighth a collection of chamber music with small ensembles, the ninth two larger orchestral works and the last three long-form noise experiments. Each of these discs is very different, and doesn't just play chronologically; the 'Organ' disc, for example, charts Feiler's collaborations with Ericsson from 1985 until just last year, and 'Chamber Music' takes us from 1983 to 2023. All of these discs are worth digging into, but 'Clarinets and Bells' is a particularly good starting point, both aesthetically and thematically. On the almost hour-long title track, Feiler's use of clarinet - a key component of Klezmer music - against a backdrop of handbells is thought provoking, reminding us of the juxtaposition of Jewish and Christian traditional sounds in pre-war Europe. He follows it up with 'Cold Rolled Steel Sheet' from 2022, offsetting dissonant clarinet wails with grim, metallic industrial scrapes.
On 2018's 'Goethe a l'abattoir', Feiler combines jagged orchestral blasts with unsettling ASMR crackles, evolving the composition to include manic piano hits, drums and serrated synth squeals that provoke tension at every moment. And his pure noise work, like 2004's half-hour aural sluice 'BowArgKoKli', is as sharp fanged as the form gets - like Merzbow at his best, it's a wall of sound that's teeming with texture and tension. It's inspiring, revolutionary stuff from beginning to end, from an artist whose work has never been more vital. Mastered and designed by Feiler's long-time collaborator Lasse Marhaug, 'Maavak' is an essential anthology.