Mixtape #64 : War

by 5:4

For the spring 5:4 mixtape the theme has felt tragically unavoidable. i’ve opted to approach the subject of war partly in a generalised way, but it would have been disingenuous not to reflect the specifics of what Ukraine is currently being subjected to by Russia. The mix therefore opens with the National Anthem of Ukraine, followed immediately after by the central movement from Shostakovich‘s Symphony No. 8, one of the composer’s most terrifyingly relentless marches, culminating in complete overkill. The inclusion of Brian Reitzell‘s The Great Red Dragon Pt 2, from his incredible Hannibal score, was partly due to the geographical (and idealogical) connotations of that colour, and i also wanted to include the Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble from North Korea; i’ve always been simultaneously fascinated and creeped out by their use of old-style synths and crooning to articulate blind adoration of the regime and its leader.

i’ve allowed myself to draw on a few movie soundtracks (Lorne Balfe, Joe Hisaishi, Cliff Martinez), but in general i’ve preferred to explore more creatively individual responses to the subject and consequences of war and combat. While most of the music is quite directly referential to the theme, some of the tracks (Juhani Silvola, Lexaunculpt) are more allusive, though along with a few others that i’ve slightly recontextualised (Jim Williams, Olivier Messiaen, These New Puritans), they help to reinforce the tone and shape of the mixtape’s narrative. Near the centre of the mix is Guns Don’t Shoot, one of the most forthright songs by Ukrainian folktronica group Onuka, originally released five years ago but which has become horribly relevant in recent weeks.

i find it impossible not to feel enormously angry and distressed at the evil actions being inflicted on Ukraine, and this is reflected in what i admit is an increasingly dark conclusion to this mixtape. Black canvasses from Converge & Chelsea Wolfe, Tori Amos and Nordvargr are interspersed with music of desolation, drawing on Takemitsu‘s Funeral Music from the film Black Rain, the anguished denouement of Vyacheslav Artyomov‘s Requiem, and a gentle but leaden burst of wistful sadness from Ukrainian ambient artists Endless Melancholy.

It’s hard to explain or justify the very end of this mixtape; almost without thinking about it i knew i needed to close with the Walzer des Augenblicks (waltz of the moment) by Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov. Elusive and strange, achingly poignant, it projects a kind of quasi-hauntological air (akin to The Caretaker) that i find unutterably beautiful and tragic, all the more so in this context. My heart goes out to the people of Ukraine, and i look forward to the day when i can create another mixtape celebrating triumph and peace.

Слава Україні!

Here’s the tracklisting in full, together with approximate timings and links to obtain the music.

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Tom Armstrong

Amen to this, Simon – looks like a great list and I look forward to listening.

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