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This review is by Kit Riemer, MD, PhD

Ghédalia Tazartès is a question mark, existing at a weird juncture of time in no particular musical scene. He is French in nationality, his family from a Jewish community in Turkey, speakers of a language I’d never before heard of called Ladino. As far as I know, his music harkens back to none of the above structures. It doesn’t seem to harken back to anything.

Diasporas often sounds like a crowd of old men loudly dying at the bottom of a spike pit. Other times, it is repetitive and droning with strange background instrumentals like an old skipping turntable, monotonous commanding vocals intoning in a language I don’t speak. I wonder what the experience of a native speaker would be, listening to Tazartès.

His music is truly undefinable. It doesn’t sound much like anything else, and genre descriptors will imply things about it that aren’t true. There are experimental snippets like musique concrete, but none of the studio coldness: it feels immediate and recorded in person, even though it probably isn’t. It’s not particularly harsh or noisy. It has avant garde, spacey, strange qualities, but it’s a far cry from psychedelic. I’d be hard pressed to find a worse acid-trip album.

So, what is it like? It’s kind of spooky, maybe self-consciously so. Though it was recorded in the late ‘70s, it feels deranged and intentional, almost like the album a bad Hollywood version of a psychopath would record. It’s not fun, really. It’s not good background music, nor is it something you’d necessarily want to put on in the absence of other stimuli.

What direction was Tazartès going in, musically, here in 1977? I haven’t listened to a single other thing he’s made, but I’m confident there’s no clear line toward or away from anything. Diasporas is a black box. It contains the sum total of all knowledge that exists about itself.

I don’t know who this album is for. Who could it appeal to? There are parts that I think are attractive, sonically. Mourir Un Peu is beautiful in a sci-fi sort of way. Casimodo Tango is mournful and eminently listenable, far and away the most “normal” of the tracks; it sounds like something you’d hear an old man playing on a piano in a dusty French bar. But yeah, a lot of it sounds like found sound or the first sound-studies of an individual with no musical training but a boatload of ideas.

If I dug a cassette from a sewer grate and it sounded like Diasporas, I would be like, yeah, that makes sense. It’s an odd little album. Give it a spin if you like.

listens: 10-20

score: i