by Anla Courtis
review by Mark McCawley
Artist: Anla Courtis
Album: B-rain Folklore
Country: Tokyo, Japan
Genre: Experimental, Classical, Folk, World
Label: Yogoh Record
Release date: 21 Jan 2015
The very best experimental music should take the listener on an entirely new sonic journey with each new hearing and withstand repeated listening. Anla Courtis achieves both with the ten tracks which make up his 2015 release, B-rain Folklore. Virtuoso, multi-instrumentalist, Courtis performs all the instruments on B-rain Folklore — guitars, toba and homemade violin, erkencho (folk clarinet hornpipe), marimbas, mouth harp, flutes, plastic trumpets, flugelhorn, bombo legüero (drum), caja chayera, sikus (panpipes), bells, tapes, toy guitar, bau, objects & processing.
B-rain Folklore “is based on the sound exploration of the boundaries of “folklore”, inspired by some Argentine and South American traditions, and some Asian and African cultures.” Courtis used some Argentine folklore instruments in addition to field recordings in Japan in this work.
In the July 2014 interview of The Wire (Issue 365), Courtis explains the influence of folklore on his music:
“It’s about working with the imaginary dimension of folklore. Countries and cultures are collective inventions and, in some ways, we are inventing them all the time. Nowadays, everything is mixed up. Traditions are being constantly redefined. Anything could potentially become the next folklore… When listening to all this music, I realized just how ‘experimental’ music can be. I mean, I’m supposed to be an experimental musician, but in the end it’s quite shocking to notice that ‘experimental’ is not just a genre, label or adjective – it’s a basic quality of music. I think that all powerful music is basically experimental in the sense that it somehow sets its own parameters at some point. And it’s surprising how valid or consistent this idea is for music from all times and places.”
Originally recorded in Buenos Aires in 2008 and finally mastered in 2013, B-rain Folklore was released earlier this year on the Japanese label Yogoh Record. While at turns beguiling and foreboding, no solitary listen leaves one with a single distinct impression:
Anla Courtis — Glaucidium Jardinii
Anla Courtis — Monte Erbio
Anla Courtis — Isla de Qomo
Anla Courtis — Teryrupnuu
Indeed, I am left with the sense having had heard the soundtrack behind a production of Japanese Noh theatre, or perhaps even the soundtrack of Antonin Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty. You be the judge.
2. Cuero del Agua
3. Glaucidium Jardinii
4. Monte Erbio
5. Anga Amda
7. El Guirivilo
8. Isla de Qomo
Track 10 (Teryrupnuu) contains field recordings of Shin-Osaka, Japan — February, 2005.
Alan (Anla) Courtis was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina on February 22, 1972. He studied classical guitar, piano, theory and composition. He holds a degree in Communication Science from the University of Buenos Aires, where he currently runs an annual music workshop. He played electric guitar in diverse bands and in 1993 he co-founded the group Reynols. With this group he has released more than one hundred CDs and vinyls worldwide in labels like Trente Oiseaux, Digital Narcis, Drone Records, Locust, Sedimental, Beta-Lactam Ring Records, Celebrate Psi Phenomenon, RRR, Audiobot Records, Roaratorio, JDK, Reverse, Matching Head, American Tapes, Last Visible Dog, Carbon Records, Mikroton, etc.
He has toured extensively in Japan, Europe, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Latin America and even near the North Pole (!). He has composed music for films, installations and has also been coordinating music workshops in Europe, Japan, New Zealand, USA and LatinAmerica. His music always has strong experimental sense and usually based on high-skilled techniques of prepared sound, tape manipulations, processing of field recordings, live electronics, objects, cymbals, synthesizers, computer tools, playing traditional (both acoustic and electric) instruments as well as self-built, strange and unusual instruments (eg. unstringed guitar).