Boomkat Product Review:
Goddamn! A phenomenally important but bizarrely unknown experimental milestone here from Swiss-born inventor and composer Walter Smetak, who toyed with Afro-Brazilian ritualistic traditions and helped usher in the rise of tropicália. "Smetak" is his most radical and enduring full-length, a mind-altering collection of mystical, microtonal sound, improvisation and DIY weirdness.
In 1969, Smetak began assembling workshops at the University of Bahia in Brazil, where he would express to students the ideas and techniques behind experimental music. He was a prolific instrument builder and was fascinated with Afro-Brazilian culture and the outsider occult religion of Theosophy. Using these ideas, he built over 150 instruments out of PVC pipes, polystyrene and pumpkins, calling them "plásticas sonoras".
All of these ideas are the building blocks of his 1974 debut "Smetak", which was produced by local legends Caetano Veloso and Roberto Santana, with the support of Gilberto Gil. It's not an easy album to listen to, but immediately betrays Smetak's interests. The short opening track 'Tijolinhos, Material De Construção - Audição Espontânea Do Silêncio, Violão Eólico' splices cheap electronics with tape dubbed drones, swirling with a disarming ritualistic grandeur.
From there, we're dragged into bubbling environmental recording, microtonal string plucks and ear-splitting bowed sounds. Here's where Smetak's Theosophical interests come into play: the Swiss artist was fascinated by Theosophy's obsession with Hinduism and Buddhusm, so the music tips into sounds that curve from South Asian microtonality to metaphysical explorations of sound and light. It's sound art that only begins to make sense after repeat listens as its aesthetic oddness gives way to deeper truths.
Properly out-there material for dedicated cosmic explorers.