Album: Serart

Serjical Strike / Columbia
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

In the same way that some couples call their dwellings after composites of their names, "Serart" is derived from those of its collaborators, Serj Tankian, front man of the ponderous arty nu-metallists System of a Down, and Arto Tuncboyaciyan, the avant-garde multi-instrumentalist folk artist with whom he shares Armenian roots - though why they opted for that rather than the more expressive "Tunctank" is a mystery. While I would never advise you to listen to System of a Down, this is a different matter, thanks to the open-minded mingling of styles, cultures and instruments facilitated by Tuncboyaciyan's idiosyncratic talent. The result is a series of largely instrumental vignettes of dizzying diversity: "Devil's Wedding", for instance, is an infectious blend of Santana-style timbales, African-flavoured chanting and wheedling guitar lines, while in four minutes flat "Cinema" manages to encompass three separate metamorphoses, taking in drum'n'bass beat with berimbau or something similar, a descending jazz sax-line with vocal babble, an Oriental harp counterpoint and heavy rock guitar passages of Zappa-esque knottiness, with a Tankian vocal on top. Elsewhere, "The Walking X-periment" sounds like an Exotica soundscape settling into its groove, starting with tropical ambience and vibes, then developing with sax, electric sitar, percussion and murmurous vocal - before breaking into a more Turkish-sounding barrage of darabuka and yodelling. "Weird" isn't the word for it. With oud, shakuhachi, banjo and guchin involved alongside guitars, gunfire and breakbeats, the effect is of a mad, compacted multi-ethnicity that shouldn't work but does. Recommended.