SsmKOSK “Merak” (self-released)

I never learned to read or speak Slovene – I guess that’s my own fault. I never had any reason for it until now, but that’s no excuse – if that attitude was somehow legitimated, no one would do anything until they needed to do it, and we’d all be in big trouble. Still, I’m deficient, so I guess I’ll just wing it on this one. Everything about it is in Slovene, or at least not English. Sorry.

I’m left, then, with this mysterious tape by Ljubljana-based SsmKOSK, Merak, handmade cassette cover (and actually the tape itself) emblazoned with text produced via an old-school labelmaker, the kind that physically stamps the label tape to raise the letters on it. My grandfather used one of those to label all his electronic equipment – he was a ham radio enthusiast.

The mystery of Merak remains upon listening to it, only in that it’s filled with non-English samples, most of which sound urgent and are often shouted. The music is great fun – a mix of noise, gabber, breakcore, and plunderphonics that’s as unsettling as it is opaque. There’s even a passage that sounds like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, with mournful strings overlaid with a man speaking, and the man does not sound happy. This is followed almost immediately by metal guitar sliced into a million pieces. The tracks are all inherently different, a seizure of maddening stutterbeats one minute, a wash of static and synthesizer the next, and it all makes sense within the context of the tape as a whole. There’s a sense of wide-eyed, anything-goes experimentalism here, and that is cause for repeat listens.

Merak is an absolute treat, a treasure to unearth. I feel bad that the language barrier prevents me from digging deeper into the philosophy behind the artist or the release, so I’ll simply let the music speak for itself in this case. I have no idea if Merak is available anywhere, but if you can track it down, you absolutely should. I’m gonna hold onto my copy with dear life – unless of course somebody wants to offer me outrageous sums of money for it.

--Ryan Masteller