yara asmar – synth waltzes and accordion laments
12.22.23 by Matty McPherson
Over a shepherd’s pie dinner yesterday evening, my uncle lamented the state of the southern Virginia shopping malls. Many are talking about this, mind you; it’s an American tragedy! Every giant closed space (except Virginia Beach’s!) seems to have died sometime around 2005 and remained in a decaying, decrepit undead state. It is only here where the remaining organs American mall seems to find its own bizarre afterlife, not as a horror level or YouTube video you stumble into 2 double cognacs deep, but as yet an almost-bazaar. More a collection of functional dollar table of junk and records, rented out by suburban dead stuff collectors. “Eclectic” nor “hectic” describes the waltz one makes inside these near-squats; records and memorabilia of a local populace, not farmers nor urbanites, are the echoes on display here. It was only here, did my uncle seem to find himself looking at himself 30 odd years prior; a photo of a blue honda taken from a track meet. He could not verify it, but even if he could, why would I call out the man’s gumption?
The puppeteer, yara asmar, had a more reverent variant of this experience earlier this year, relayed in the liner notes her latest brilliant release, synth waltzes and accordion laments. In March, the Beirut based artist found herself at an artist’s residency in Black Forest, Germany with her grandmother’s green accordion. Originally, it belonged to her grandmother’s brother, but he was not one to play it much; thus the instrument took to her grandmother, before then the attic of the family house. Only in the past decade had asmar taken to the accordion, amassing a library of elliptical “Home Recordings”. Frugal recordings interweaving synths, decommissioned music boxes and toy pianos, amidst life recordings. After being informed the accordion was only made minutes away, in the town of Trossingen, asmar soon found herself staring directly at an old ledger revealing a date of manufacturing and shipment in October of 1955; two green accordions, one headed to ‘Libanon’. A score for unexpected genealogy.
As much as a remarkable antecedent. One that tugs at roots and the sense of place that can bring you to staring at an image of yourself decades prior, if not jittered out of jet lag in the middle seat of purgatory. Her attention to the instrument, to this point, has imbued it with a level of love as she moved (due to intrusive rent costs) around Beirut finishing the recording of her second cassette release. Much of the result is dedicated to Beirut, as much as her family surrounding her and their own enclaves and objects. A brilliant ode to family as much as a deft presentation of beauty.
asmar has not modified her overarching musical orientation: Pauline Oliveros inspired deep listening accordion zones, augmented via a fair licking of pedals and synths. She is a tinkerer first and foremost though, focused on extracting a synth sound, slotting a life recording, or discombobulating a toy music box to affect her own accordion drones, if not create their own isolated worlds. Disconnected from this immediate plane and suggestive of a premonition beyond. That notion of place, especially from the story relayed above, is culled into a crucial sixth sense to this release. asmar’s zones start to evolve over into their own dazzling, patient enclaves.
Track titles convey that, sketching out a stream of conscious logic; a private journal ruminating over itself briefly considering what led it here and whom to thank. Often her accordion drone is one of precocious warmth, only augmented through few elements like voice or bells that point to directions or apparitions outside the space. It’s those fusions the drone is just transcendent and a synth (or music box) burrows underneath, as asmar’s utter simplicity and ear for detail takes over, we find her embellishing her own form of SAW II’s bliss zones–her’s are the kinds that ECM’s New Series regrettably shy away from but feel intrinsically compatible with classic Windham Hill Cosmic Pastoralism. The reverent “from gardens in the city we keep alive”, the highlight is magnitude of different feelings at a magnitude of different volumes, times, and places through chimes, a whistle, and the way a pedal can just make any sound wave into a sunset.
To great measure, this is achieved without ruminating or fussing over the placement of these tracks. Her intuition, or the low stakes of home recording, on the curation gives the tape a real sense of immediacy and familiarity, shifting like the body. It’s a pondering kind of warmth; one that nudges you to consider just why you haven’t watered those poinsettias during a frigid sunrise. Or finds you staring back at yourself decades prior in a mall. The waltz and lament of life finds one naturally, if not eternally, as this tape would argue. And at 5:00 PM with nothing to do, it calls to you as well.
Tape Sold Out at Bandcamp! But Boomkat might still have copies…