Mohammad - Segondè Saleco
34°Ν - 42°Ν & 19°Ε – 29°Ε roughly demarcates a region rich in mystic and philosophical tradition — the territories of Greece, Bulgaria, and Turkey — a region that is perhaps one of the more popular and misunderstood battlegrounds of culture collision and fusion. Today, the valley of Phocis sees all the commotion, distraction, and turbulence of travel tourism. The view of Mount Parnassus from a tiny balcony of a hotel room in Delphi obscures slopes sacred to the Olympian god Apollo; the mountain’s mythic status as “the home of poetry” has changed deeply from the period described in Eurpides’s play Ion, where the unspeakable tragedy of Creusa took place at the hands of the charioteer god. Of course, the question of myth itself is subject to philological manipulation and cultural evolution; its etiological and Euhemeristic expressions see many modern academics postulating myth’s role in human development, incisively removing its attachment to the lyric storytelling of the Homeric epic, the aristeia of Diomedes, or Ajax storming against all odds. But does this “pagan” dialectic serve as the primordial foundry for the more esoteric strands of religion in the region? Strange, dark monasteries forever anoint sacred oils on foreheads throughout those Aegean islands that simultaneously hide Pythogorean caves. Even on the Western coast of Turkey, an Islamic Muezzin calls for prayer near the supposed site of Troy. The call can be heard East, in the halls of the Hagia Sophia, where Christian mosaics and Islamic calligraphy coexist eternally on the soil that Persian soldiers marched on to conquer the “West.” No doubt, this sort of cultural overlap can be seen virtually in all aspects of our contemporary landscape, yet there’s something eerily foundational about the region, whether it be through the mythological import found in the Western canon or the dominant religious ideologies colliding on the Bosphorus, where Europe collides with Asia: Byzantium, Constantinople, Istanbul.
Nikos Veliotis, Costantino Kiriakos, and ILIOS, the Greek trio that together form Mohammad, have studied this region through a triptych of records released by Athens-based label Antifrost, which released Zo Rèl Do and Lamnè Gastama last year. Segondè Saleco peaks as the series’s “final catharsis,” a statement that serves to bluntly describe the record’s slow-building, soaring tendencies. Here, they implement their signature sound more subtly than the opaque doom that their PAN release Som Sakrifis explored to incredible affect. The physiological impact of earth-shaking oscillations similarly support the raw materiality of their homemade instruments; however, Segondè Saleco seems focused on exploring the origin of the intensity they’ve been so intent on summoning. As such, the exertion and performance of darkness, a performance they’ve previously mastered contemporaneously with modern movements in experimental doom and drone, is treated as an ancient phenomena to be archaeologically unearthed or even philologically studied — similar to the root of a word having an unknown, archaic past. Mohammad explore mystical understandings of “doom” rooted in their homeland and surrounding territories, a palpable history that remains in ruins scattered throughout their land or felt as a whispery, shiver-inducing tinge on an Aegean breeze.
The energy of Segondè Saleco contains the dramatism inherently located in the extended crescendo: a sort of familiar, hybrid force found in the instrument building of Partch or the extended compositions of La Monte Young — a modern classicism co-mingling with the low-end theory of Stephen O’Malley and rising-action of GY!BE. Yet, any descriptive referential patchwork fails to describe the grander arc of their project; the study of place, and not just “place” in the abstract art-speak manner, but a study of the land. Oddly enough, their use of the auxiliary language Esperanto in titling some of their tracks holds true to the cultural hybridization and conflict found in 34°Ν - 42°Ν & 19°Ε – 29°Ε. For one, Esperanto (translated as “one who hopes”) was constructed to be an easy-to-learn, politically-neutral language that would transcend nationality and foster understanding between people who speak different languages. As such, its project is inherently tied to resistance, found in constructing utopic alternatives that seek to correct harsh political realism that subdivides the land; it’s a problem that exists in their region of study specifically, as geo-political lines divide land with common historical and ancestral roots. This “hope” can be heard directly in the ascending brilliance of album centerpiece “Sagaraki,” a piece full of life, beauty, and strained optimism that also seems tied to both ancient struggle and complicated political narrative in equal-measure.
Album opener “Bela Frumatene” (translating to “pretty early”) focuses on the brooding restraint that’s most similar to Som Sakrifis: oscillations rise over the gritty, deep bowing of contrabass and cello. The album’s shortest piece, “Kawas Rivero Akvo,” embodies the “chamber doom” genre title through slow, sultry motions that see the whole trio moving together as a tidal swell, rising and falling freely to produce waves that aspire to evoke something between remorse and sympathy. The piece connects the two long-form pieces, “Sagaraki” and the gorgeous closer “Ah Ya Em Hamada” (perhaps named after an Islamic folk-song), a work that evolves from a profound dirge into a resilient, consecrative finale. It’s hard not to imagine cinematic scenes of robes snapping in the wind, wooden ships, or some age-old mystic walking on rocky cliffsides; but it’s apparent that the drama is also here and now, a call for solidarity against incessant proclamations of difference.
The beauty of Segondè Saleco functions as a genealogy of intensity, the study of specific historical and cultural movements. It’s a gorgeous consideration of any land as an atemporal vocabulary evolving as human forces polymerize, beautify, and ravage the meaning of the earth. Yet the obscurity of their reference can’t be ignored; we’re left unsure whether this study is inspirational, conceptual, or completely musical, as the meaning is left vague. Rather, their approach arrives at a grander primordial feeling — a feeling to which 34°Ν - 42°Ν & 19°Ε – 29°Ε serves to complexly embody, an inquiry into cultural movement both past and present. Their musical pursuit is a study of philology, of a prenatal language, of intensity and consecration as a means of communication. The imagery summoned therein serves not to malign or glorify the past or present, but to demand the human spirit to climb higher, to construct a solidarity from its fragments, to feel a profundity through unknown language, through esoteric history, through the narrative of the rocks, where the feet of thousands have tread, evoking the Apollonian, Dionysian, Abrahamic, Ishmaelic, and Mystical, and, primarily, a Segondè Saleco — perhaps an auxiliary “salinity” of the earth, perhaps a second chance.