By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Serart is the fascinating debut collaborative art project from the gifted Armenian multi-instrumentalist Arto Tunc Boyaciyan and System of a Down lead vocalist Serj Tankian. Damn if it ain't bangin'. You can ask my neighbors. I've listened to this record 15 times in the past three days, and now they're starting to give me dirty looks in the parking lot. Through our common walls I can see how this might sound like I'm off on some sacrificial tribal-voodoo shit.
Those expecting this to sound anything like SOAD should be properly forewarned. Even with song titles such as "Devil's Wedding" and "Metal Shock," you probably won't be hearing this on the PA between bands at Ozzfest. This new "world music" may be uncharted territory as far as some of us are concerned. Unless you're already listening to other groups who manage to incorporate sitars, talking drums, tablas, turntables, hand cymbals, toy piano, poetic spoken word and bowed standup bass into their music, this album will serve as an introductory education in the odd juxtaposition of melodic tonality. Serart is just totally all over the place. And I mean that in a good way. You'll probably keep this one on the shelf somewhere between your Fela Kuti and Roni Size records.
The best thing about this project is that it never gets bogged down in a single monotonous groove or noodly jam session. Worlds collide. You get 16 songs that all sound unique in their own distinct manner, and the whole album does its thing at about 45 minutes all in. Which, come to think of it, makes it perfect for sex. First aural impression reveals elements of English drum and bass, minimalistic Japanese melodic figures on piano, Indian percussion, chanted African background vocals and what sounds like a looped sample of our man Ornette Coleman. The more you listen to this album, the more you wanna start referencing the neighborhood atlas. Gettin' all National Geographic up in here.
The Serart album also includes an interesting short film on a separate DVD titled Sun Angle Calculator. An ambient mixture of found archival footage and bizarre textural animation, the piece moves as a study in the aesthetic of mosaic culture. Kinda "when bad things happen to good people" set to music. About as deep as you need it to be. Not particularly revelatory, but intoxicating psychedelic eye candy for a late-night bong sesh. So it works for me. My neighbors will just have to get used to it.