Homage to Joxan Artze

I’m disadvantaged with the LP oMOrruMU baMAt (REPETIDOR RLP96), mainly because it’s so steeped in Basque culture – the songs are sung in that dialect, the musicians IbonRG and Enrike Hurtado are paying tribute to Joxan Artze, the Basque avant-garde poet and writer, and they also play the txalaparta, a percussion instrument comprised of tuned wooden planks, which as far as I know didn’t exist outside of the Basque region. Thus, neither the LP nor its history are exactly accessible to us stodgy English types, but those who spin it will find an odd mix of songs (some of them a bit like folk songs, or anthems, very conventional 19th century popular song), percussion, and piano played in a rough style. Some of the songs were recorded inside caves and other such natural bunkers. Apparently there’s some minimal electronic music here too, but I’ve yet to find it. What can it mean?

Well, Joxan Artze was an important figure in Spain. For one thing he was politically radical and stood up against the dictatorship of Franco, and was an active member of the wider Ez Dok Amairu movement, which had a specific aim to combat censorship and thus help art and culture to thrive. He also championed the txalaparta instrument, with the help of his brother Jesus, hoping to revive interest and reinsert it into musical culture; there’s an impressive video of them doing just this, at the 1996 txalaparta festival. His poetry was published by what I assume were underground presses in Spain, around the late 1960s and early 1970s; his work was evidently pretty radical, redefining what poetry means and probably doing something useful for the Basque language too. What’s more, he was a visual artist, experimenting with his own forms of visual expression; some of these might be reproduced in the large-format booklet that is issued with this LP. It’s this period – the 1960s to the 1970s – when Joxan Artze was producing his most extreme avant-garde works, and that’s what today’s record is concentrating on.

IbonRG and Enrike Hurtado are much enamoured of Artze’s achievements, the way he could mix up different creative disciplines, and that he wasn’t exclusively political – he could be lyrical, playful, even sentimental too. They like the way he was “always against the tide, above all fashions”, evidently following his own path. Bear all this in mind as we try and find a way into this unusual and, at times, impenetrable record; the pair have used Artze as a starting point, but taken it a lot further and explored their own concerns, sometimes quite modern and minimalist in nature. Interesting in places, but I must admit I was hoping for a little more passion and excitement. From 14th January 2022.