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Friday, August 25, 2017

Sharif Sehnaoui / Adam Gołębiewski - Meet the Dragon (Uznam, 2017) ***½

By Eyal Hareuveni

The dragon in our case is a tough, uncompromising and unpredictable beast, but this demanding, mythic creature can also be a gracious one, bestowing fascinating, poetic sounds to its worshipers. This dragon was nurtured by two idiosyncratic shamans - Lebanese, Beirut-based Sharif Sehnaoui, who focuses on expanding the sonic spectrum of the acoustic guitar without using any effects or electronics, and Polish, Poznań-based percussionist Adam Gołębiewski, who focuses on exploring the anatomical aspects of his drum-set and assorted objects, extending their expressive spectrum. Sehnaoui and Gołębiewski were recorded at MDK Dragon club in Poznań on February 2015.

Both Sehnaoui and Gołębiewski are resourceful improvisers who always opt to experience with new sounds and dynamics. Sehnaoui, along with trumpeter and visual artist Mazen Kerbaj - who did the artwork for this album, founded the Lebanese Irtijal festival for improvised and new music, and the local labels Al Maslakh and Annihaya. He recorded with other forward-thinking improvisers as Norwegian percussionist Ingar Zach, Portuguese violinist Ernesto Rodriguez, and German trumpeter Birgit Ulher and performed with American percussionist Michael Zerang and Austrian trumpeter Franz Hautzinger. Gołębiewski recorded with American cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and performed with fellow American guitarist Thurston Moore and reeds player Ken Vandermark.

Meet the Dragon
offers an urgent and intense 46-minute piece. Sehnaoui and Gołębiewski scratch and rub the guitar strings and its wooden body, the drums skins and cymbals surfaces, creating an avalanche of noisy, resonant clashes. Their language adopts gentle calls of reeds instruments, visits imaginary, tortured country blues phrases, and spirals into an exotic-industrial version of koto and frame percussion duet and flows like a delicate stream of sounds or sings a cryptic-cacophonic song. It seems that there is no end to Sehnaoui and Gołębiewski's sense of invention and willingness to keep extending the vocabularies of their instruments. Any idea can trigger an immediate, kaleidoscopic chain-reaction, which soon evaporates in a turbulent meltdown. Sehnaoui and Gołębiewski navigate wisely through this adventurous journey to a peaceful conclusion, leaving the dragon content and satisfied.