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Silvia Kastel
Bibula Harena Tony Poland , January 20th, 2017 14:03

Krokodilo Tapes is dead. Long live Id Mud. For reasons that simply haven’t been explained - a most typical Blackest Ever Black trait - the short-lived Krokodilo Tapes offshoot of Kiran Sande’s stellar label has quietly been put to bed after facilitating some fine cassette releases. Among them a paean to the ambient works of Leo Anibaldi from fellow Roman Alessandro Adriani, the furious techno Jekyll and forlorn ambient Hyde of Helena Hauff and various Regis-related curios. Named after a poem penned by ‘80s Hull writer Genny Rahtz, Id Mud is a dedicated mixtape series that commences in impressive fashion with some selections from the German underground.

At the time this new venture was announced, the Untitled (OHM 12.8.16) tape double pack from Hamburg duo Nina and Good News caught my attention thanks to their fine V I S label, their refined superb mixing skills and because, you know, everyone loves a double pack. In truth, a lack of awareness of regarding the other Id Mud contributor, Silvia Kastel and her work, played its part too, But like so many other names Blackest Ever Black has introduced over the years, this initial contact with Kastel as a DJ had me eager to explore the Berlin artist’s rich, sprawling discography across countless solo albums and her Control Unit collaboration with Ninni Morgia.

With Bibula Harena, Kastel has delivered a 96-minute selection that at times proves hard to discern where one track finishes and another begins, especially as there is no tracklisting provided. What stood out upon first listen, and remains with each revisit, is the sense of continuity Kastel has achieved as she deftly weaves through several decades of electronic experimentation with rhythm and texture. For the most part, Kastel’s mixing is not flashy but it is clear she has dedicated much time to sequencing and pace, ensuring both sides flow expertly and memorably.

Instead of one continuous mix cut to fit both sides of a C100, Kastel delivers two mixes that seem to occupy different sonic spaces. The opening ‘~AHH~’ side floats through a very evocative cosmos of sci-fi-laden concrète, hollow post punk, primal electronics, synth experimentation and, early on, deranged Dalek shouts. It’s here where everything melds together, Kastel devilishly obfuscating the outer edges of tracks resulting in numerous moments that leave you impulsively gasping with wonderment.

There is a more defined focus on contemporary electronic movements on the ‘~BE~’ side; Kastel discarding the cosmic flutter of what came before for a colder exercise in techno, electro and so much more. It’s quite gauche of a reviewer to list out book report-style the various fluctuations and deviations of a mix, this spoils everyone else’s initial listening experience and the many surprises within Bibula Harena. I will indulge one personal highlight of this ‘~BE~’ side mix however. Midway through, Kastel loudly interrupts some Mego-esque pointillist synthesis by slamming a jungle track over the crossfader. Although chaotic, both blend together and exist in thrilling harmony for a short while before Kastel veers off in another tangent.

In an online age where everyone who is anyone has a podcast or DJ mix series covering all manner of styles and genres, it’s easy to argue physically-released mixes are increasingly redundant - though the format’s contribution to the music industry in its heyday through licensing revenue is surely missed by labels and artists. It’s equally easy to be sniffy about a mix released in a format only very few will ever hear; BEB only manufactured 50 copies of Bibula Harena after all. Yet this is a mix that feels far too special to be relegated to the orange waveforms and inane ‘ID?’ comments of Soundcloud, there is so much reward and discovery involved in the deep research of identifying Kastel’s as-yet undisclosed selections.