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Aho Ssan
Rhizomes Jon Buckland , October 6th, 2023 08:51

Aho Ssan assembles a crack sqaud of international collaborators (from Moor Mother to Kassel Jaeger to Lafawndah to Valentina Magaletti) to create a mighty morphin vision of explosive electronic sounds

The notion of what form the music of the future might take has long been an inspired discussion point. Whether it’s Charles Fourier, Luigi Russolo, Jacques Attali, François J. Bonnet (who appears here as Kassel Jaeger), or tQ’s own Robert Barry, reams have been written about what the music of the future might sound like and also how it could be created and distributed.

Current industry types feel that the future lies with sync deals: getting artists’ music onto TV shows, adverts, films, and video games. Others are more concerned with digital spaces, where acts perform on Fortnite Live, become part of the metaverse, or sell their wares for non-fungible tokens via Web3. And I won’t even attempt to grapple with the thorny issue of AI in this brief review.

Some musicians, however, are taking a more collaborative approach. Think of Damo Suzuki asking support acts to fill in as his backing band for the night, The Boredoms with their 111 drummer orchestra, Rhys Chatham’s pieces for 200 guitarists, or Sly & The Family Drone dishing out drums, encouraging their audience to join in with the rumpus. Even global house music sensation Avicii invited a small army of fans and producers to contribute to his Avicii x You project. Much like these efforts to push music forward in a collective sense, Aho Ssan is forging his own path.

Rhizomes is unlike most records. It can be experienced as a standard ten-track release or there’s the option to descend further into the undergrowth and discover recordings otherwise unavailable. Hidden tracks, extended editions and solo pieces await the inquisitive and you can even participate in the creative process yourself through the provided sample pack. The focus of this release is community. Growing and strengthening it. Like its title, Rhizomes is the underground stalk from which roots and shoots grow.

So, what does it sound like? Unsurprisingly, like the future. ‘Tetsuo I’ is fittingly formed of metal fragments and industrious digital tinkering, as if Fennesz had mistakenly dropped his stems into a blender. The synths are corrupted and destroyed. Fizzing sprites and burgeoning electronic undulations warm the headspace beneath 9T Antiope’s mechanical voice on ‘Hero Once Been’. A golden, hopeful tone emerges, unshackling her vocals, transforming them into a luscious full-bodied ascent.

‘Rhizome IV’ finds Moor Mother in spiritual healer mode, preaching over the top of a sparking fusebox, asking “Can you hear? Are you listening?”. Whereas ‘Cold Summer’, its title whisper-shouted by Blackhaine, takes a more introspective approach as Ssan crafts a violent, disturbed, and confusing soundscape.

Whilst coils of eerie samples and shuddering static swamp ‘Le Tremblement’, it’s a slew of explosive drums and twittering electronics which form the combustive, claustrophobic cloud of ‘Till The Sun Down’. Resina’s bow drags across gnarled strings. Snares pop like gats. Squeaks and shrieks of melody gasp as Daveed Diggs spits spine-chilling verses. Cascading voluminous static and ire-laden, erratic beats engulf those trembling strings, forcing a heartbreaking symphony to rupture through the distortion.

What Aho Ssan and his accomplices (and they are legion – we also get Valentina Magaletti, Nicolás Jaar, Angel Bat Dawid, Nyokabi Kariũki, Lafawndah, KMRU, Richie Culver, and that’s barely the iceberg’s tip) have achieved here is a global community interacting, inspiring, and collaborating across borders, across timezones, across cultural divides. And why should it stop once the fruits of their labour has passed out into the world? Rhizomes provides like-minded creators with the tools to expand upon its foundations.

Without collaboration we’d likely end up with what Attali once described as “music produced by each individual for himself, for pleasure outside of meaning, usage, and exchange” which might work for some but is insularity really the best future that we can envision? Aho Ssan and his proliferating participators don’t seem to agree.