Sonic Arts Lounge
Mazen Kerbaj & Sharif Sehnaoui / Erdem Helvacioğlu & Ulrich Mertin
Sonic Arts Lounge
“Wormholes” is an ongoing audiovisual project by Mazen Kerbaj and Sharif Sehnaoui, two artists from the free improvisation scene in Lebanon who have been collaborating since the late 1990s. In 2008, painter, cartoonist, author and musician Mazen Kerbaj devised a set-up in which he draws live on stage, projecting his painting process onto a screen. He draws on a prepared, illuminated glass panel using a wide array of inks and bottles with various brushes, window wipers, colours and solvents. His movements turn into textures and figures that are constantly painted over, reappearing and disappearing. Coincidental effects determine the nature of his improvisation.
In the meantime, Sharif Sehnaoui coaxes unusual sounds from his guitar: it transforms into his percussive instrument. Sometimes energetic, sometimes gentle, he pounds on its corpus with his sticks. Audible are heavy sounds and rhythms that draw circles and then become thin and tamed again. Between these and the sequences of Kerbaj’s drawings emerge unintended, coincidental points of interference that provide the impetus for an open and free colour-sound voyage.
As any filmmaker knows, one of the most powerful aspects of music is its ability to construct emotional arcs and guide narrative by purely sonic means. Simultaneously ethereal and concrete, both spectral and textural, “Planet X”–the debut collaboration between guitarist Erdem Helvacioğlu and violist Ulrich Mertin – tells the story of the appearance in the sky of a new heavenly body and follows one hapless explorer’s quest to discover what lies at its heart. Over the course of two years, Helvacioğlu and Mertin composed and crafted this project, building up layers of jagged scratching sounds, plaintive melodies, percussive hits, and dark drones. The two artists grounded the sound of the album in strings but also employed unorthodox recording techniques, sophisticated processing algorithms, and multi-tracking to achieve a rich, complex, resonant texture. Throughout, the sound is unmistakably forward-looking, evocative of the project’s science fiction themes and redolent of the eerie, sometimes dark feel of sci-fi films like “Alien”, “Moon”, and “2001”.