What is Porest? Is it music? A collage? An imagined soundscape? A feeling?
Well yes, its all of the above. It’s a recontextualised world, with field recordings layered over radio broadcasts, and electric saz, strings, balypso, reeds & synth recordings. It’s one big melting pot, an experimental soundscape, where elements of the real world are layered into something more, something alien, something new, something Porest.
It was recorded by Porest and friends between1995 and 2020 in West Oakland, Germany, Sumatra, Syria, Hanoi and London. It’s electro acoustic sound art exotica, where live instrumentation augments the soundscapes, enhancing the collision of traditions, taking it all somewhere new. Where that is I haven’t been able to work out.
Porest is the work of producer, musician and audiovisual archivist who has worked extensively with Sublime Frequencies label, with his work focused on regional folk-pop music from the Middle East and Southeast Asia, including Choubi and Dabke from Iraq and Syria. He is also largely responsible for bringing the work of Omar Souleyman to the attention of the west.
His work as Porest is significantly stranger at the more experimental end of the spectrum. The charmingly titled Cancer in The Soft Breeze consists of 16 pieces, barely more than 3 minutes long (aside from the 10 minute title track), and some significantly less. It chops and changes dramatically between the tracks, between approaches, between musicality – which makes it pretty difficult to get a handle on. To some extent it feels highly personal, with the meaning known only to the creator – like a kind of sonic diary, but then who doesn’t like peeking at someone else’s diary – particularly when they’re this well travelled? But in a sense its also consciously withholding meaning, remaining wilfully obscure and avoiding providing easy signposts. It takes time to immerse yourself in the complexity and layering. You get the sense meaning will come differently for each listener.