The culmination of a long association with pianist Matthew Mills, Bagatelles represents some 30 years of piano music by British composer Bernard Hughes.
Hazy dreamscapes blur into head-nodding boom bap, decolonial feminist remixes meet philosophically dense rap flows, and reverberating bass lines fuse with nomadic folk tunes that have circulated between now geographically disparate land masses.
Mastered by Willie Green of Brooklyn’s Greenhouse Recording Co., this is the independent debut album from Hurrian Cult Legacy. The multi-pseudonymous artist who has worked under the name Kin with sound art organisation Cryptic is currently one of four ‘Sound Pioneers’ supported by Yorkshire Women’s Sound Network and Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival with a residency at the University of Hull’s surround-sound studio planned for 2021.
The album’s treatment of recorded sound, samples and melodic references is as conceptually rigorous as its lyrical content with feature verses from her partner of 15 years, Nobull (of Newcastle upon Tyne hip hop groups Verbal Terrorists and Lucid Giants) who draws upon ideas and theory from Deleuze – ‘as the AI combines with the biometrics, machines driving machines into a dialectic, I’m anti-Oedipus, see that the greed’s deceiving us’ – to Susan Sontag – ‘can you freeze a moment and own it, in what sense, 360 degrees it’s locked yet, if deemed cyclical then what’s next?’
Combining multi-instrumentalism, improvisation and the socio-aesthetics of remix culture, Hurrian Cult Legacy plays flute, piano, hurdy-gurdy and guitar to then sample and de-construct, in line with her ongoing artistic interest in self-erasure, disappearance and impermanence. The re-wiring of assumed fixed mediums (recording, writing) are revealed to be transient, flexible and subject to the decay of time.
In the opening track, she samples herself playing Beethoven’s Sonata in E Minor on piano, remixing to focus on the joining sections, the parts that are usually only framed as having a supporting role, and giving a new prominence to the ‘in-between’. Her interest here is in drawing upon remix culture for its potential to intervene in constructions of superiority; Beethoven being known as a hyper-masculine historical persona who used dynamic binary contrasts to reinforce imaginings of strength and power.
In another track she interprets the traditional blues song, ‘I know you rider’, a song that rose to prominence in the 1960s and was a regular feature in the Grateful Dead’s live sets. Those familiar with the song will know the lyrics that follow the title are ‘going to miss me when I’m gone’, words that wield new readings in the current climate of UK-Europe separation and division. Noticeably this interpretation is one without vocals.
The album name signals back to what is thought to be the oldest surviving example of notated music, located in present-day Syria. From highlighting the significance of these inscribed clay tablets in cuneiform script, to recurring references to Mesopotamia (a historical region covering parts of Iraq and eastern Syria, and that etymologically stems from the meaning ‘land between rivers’ or mesos, ‘middle’ and potamos, ‘river’), the album serves as a reminder to contemporary Britain what it owes to cultural and artistic expression in Western Asia, and a historical ego-check to the Western-biased constructions of superiority, progress and originality.
This underpinning goes on to shape the album’s critique of linear time, its embracing of liminality and relationships that transcend borders, and how music and sound can be used as resistance against the divisionary tactics of racism, sexism and socio-economic oppression.
At its core, Hurrian Cult Legacy is about resisting island mentality, both in terms of the individual self and of nationalistic tendencies, and finding alternatives to ‘us’ and ‘them’ narratives that use othering to weaken international solidarity against abuses of power. On the peripheries, meandering improvisations and pulsating dance rhythms branch out into estuaries of genre-bending connections and cultural exchanges.
Album release date: 6 May 2021
Listen on https://hurriancultlegacy.bandcamp.com/album/hurrian-cult-legacy