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Debit - The Long Count Music Album Reviews

Debit - The Long Count Music Album Reviews
The chilling and provocative new album from the electroacoustic producer is a work of speculative sonic fiction, reimagining the sounds of ancient Mayan musical history.

Stand in front of the Kukulkán pyramid at Chichén Itzá, clap your hands, and a strange chirping sound rings out—a sound that sonograms have confirmed is nearly identical to the call of the quetzal, a bird considered sacred in ancient Mayan culture. Tour guides have for years entertained tourists with the curious phenomenon, and in 1998, acoustic researcher David Lubman finally discovered the source of the mystery: the design of the pyramid’s staircase. Academics debate whether the sound is intentional, an ingenious feat of acoustical engineering—“The Mayans may have made the world’s first audio recording a thousand years ago,” gushed The New Scientist—or merely an architectural happy accident. But there is no doubt that music was central to the pre-Columbian cultures of Mesoamerica; we know from frescoes, codexes, and archeological artifacts that it played a key role in ritual and ceremonial life.

The Mayans developed a vast array of musical instruments: clay whistles, conch trumpets, gourds filled with seeds or pebbles, turtle-shell drums played with antlers. Some of these instruments were strikingly complex: One ocarina unearthed in Belize boasted three hidden chambers and could generate 17 notes. Sets of differently pitched bone flutes may have been played together in harmony. But we don’t know what this music sounded like. No musical notation system has been discovered; the collapse of the great Mayan cities in the 8th and 9th centuries, followed by two centuries of genocidal Spanish conquest, wiped out the ancient culture’s musical traditions. But The Long Count, a provocative work of sometimes harrowing electroacoustic music by the Mexican-American musician Delia Beatriz, aka Debit, attempts to revive the sound of instruments that fell silent more than a thousand years ago.

Much of Debit’s music until now has focused on rethinking club orthodoxy. Animus, her 2018 debut LP, balanced brittle grime with unsettling ambient, while 2019’s System EP delved into the triplet-heavy tribal guarachero of her native Monterrey. But The Long Count, which takes its title from the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, abandons all traces of conventional dance music. Though ambient in form, it’s far from mood music as commonly conceived—it might better be called a work of speculative sonic fiction. To create the music, the New York-based artist utilized the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México’s archive of Mayan wind instruments, using machine learning to develop a set of digital instruments modeled on her cryptic source materials.

Though it’s not immediately clear what role machine learning played from simply listening to the music—my guess is it has something to do with wrangling playable digital patches from whatever limited acoustic samples were available from these rare, fragile instruments—there’s no mistaking the otherworldly quality of The Long Count’s sounds. Long, breathy tones waver in pitch, rising and falling like distant signals carried on a humid breeze. Sometimes they take the form of mournful solo cries; at others, they tangle in eerie dissonance. Musicologists believe that ancient Mayan musical scales were much different from our own, and Beatriz’ frequencies are appropriately alien.

In places, the music takes on a mournful quality evoking ritualistic laments: The seasick pitches of “1st Night” are soft yet unsettling, like an overture to the dead. Other tracks are more atmospheric: “3rd Night” immerses wheezing, whistle-like sounds in soupy drones, while “2nd Day” sets birdlike chirps against groaning sub-bass and cenote-sized reverb. There’s little in the way of recognizable melody or rhythm; The Long Count often feels less like a musical composition than a field recording of an unfamiliar landscape in which the tape has picked up unexplained transmissions.

Despite its hushed volume and muted sounds, The Long Count stands apart from most ambient music. Like the work of Eliane Radigue, its unfamiliar frequencies can trigger odd psychoacoustic effects: Turn “7th Day” up loud enough, and your head feels encased in a cage of invisible buzzing wires. Like the isolationism of Thomas Köner, its emotional register is tuned not so much to garden-variety melancholy as nameless dread, suggesting something vast and shapeless looming just beyond the limits of your perception.

The fundamental strangeness of Debit’s approach feels like more than merely a stylistic choice (even if it is right at home on Modern Love, a UK label known for doomy electronic music). Instead, it reads as an acknowledgement of how much we don’t know about ancient Mayan musical history. Its severe austerity might also scan as an act of post-colonial resistance, especially at a time when ambient music often dissolves into soothing, palliative kitsch, and New Age spiritualism sends European DJs on ayahuasca pilgrimages.

Debit’s album, in contrast, refuses to pander to mystical fantasies. Yet it would not be a stretch to say that there’s a spiritual dimension here—just one that’s a world away from tourist-friendly cliches. Some archeologists have argued that for the ancient Maya, musical instruments were not just objects to be played; they were the physical embodiment of divine entities, conduits for celestial presence. On The Long Count, Beatriz undertakes a radical act of exhumation—a transubstantiation of electricity into breath, and vice versa—using artificial intelligence to unlock the life force from a long-dormant being. That’s not something to be taken lightly, and you can detect Beatriz’ own sense of humility and responsibility in her chilling, awe-struck tones.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Debit - The Long Count Music Album Reviews Debit - The Long Count Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Tuesday, March 01, 2022 Rating: 5

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