Boomkat Product Review:
Lebanese puppeteer and musician Yara Asmar impresses with this fanciful suite of accordion and synth vignettes. Unfurling like a Grimm fairytale, it disrupts familiar, folkish instrumentation with phantom echoes and naïve toybox chimes, inaugurating a Švankmajer-esque atmosphere that'll surely appeal to anyone into Colleen, Julianna Barwick, Preisner or Mary Lattimore.
We were enchanted by Asmar's last collection of home recordings, and 'synth waltzes...' develops her narrative further, offsetting traditional sounds with glassy, hypnotic ambience. Asmar was at a residency in the Black Forest earlier this year and had traveled with her grandmother's accordion, an instrument that played an important part on her last record. She was told that it had been made in Trossingen, only a few minutes drive from where she was staying, so she went to the workshop and one of the craftsmen immediately recognized it. He found a ledger from 1955 that documented the sale; the accordion was made with only seven more, two of which were green, and one of these was sent to Lebanon. Asmar uses this story as the backdrop for an album that links the mysterious German forest with Beirut, considering all the people that left the city for one reason or another, and those that have made their return.
Just like its predecessor, 'synth waltzes...' buzzes with a fantastical quality that speaks to Asmar's work as a puppeteer. She uses the waltz form to imply a wide-eyed playfulness that emerged in Germany before spreading into the wider world. 'to die in the country' is shadowy and puzzling, slowed to a crawl and made from synth chimes that can't help but remind us of mystifying short films and animations. The accordion makes its first appearance on 'objects lost in drawers', and it's here where we get to visualize the scope of Asmar's narrative. She doesn't need to manipulate the sound much - it already gives us enough cues to situate us in the liminal zone between the Black Forest and Beirut. As the track moves into its final third, Asmar drowns it in reverb, adding synthesized chorals that lift it to the heavens. She interrupts the flow mid-way through the record with a well-placed poem from Majd Chidiac, who almost raps over 'are these your hands...', clinging to words like "stick" and "hands" and puncturing Asmar's cloudy atmosphere.
On 'three clementines on the counter...', Asmar shifts her phantom waltz into rubbery surrealism, moving through time cautiously. And with 'Jumana' she extends the courtesy to her accordion, drifting purposely from clattering folk sounds into murky ambience, decorated with evocative bells. It's an absorbing fable.