3/18/17 – Mazen Kerbaj “Brt Vrt Zrt Krt” (2005)

Mazen Kerbaj is an avant-garde artist, writer, and musician from Lebanon. I can’t remember where I found this album online but was instantly blown away by it. The album’s description includes “no cuts | no overdubbing | no use of electronics” which is incredibly hard to believe. The whole album is just Mazen Kerbaj’s trumpet playing, and the tools he uses to alter the sound of that trumpet. I’ve never heard anyone make these sounds on the trumpet before or after him, and since that night I’ve wanted to write about it.

The song structure is closest to Free Form Jazz or Harsh Noise, many are just a constant stream of noises, and apparently all improvised. On first glance, seeing an album be nothing more than “a bunch of random noises with a trumpet” sounds utterly dull and tedious but it somehow is more than that. My enjoyment of this music is even hard to describe, it is a mix of something so completely alien and so familiar. I find myself captivated by his sounds, constantly trying to figure out how he created them.

This album shifts from ethereal and soothing to dismal and menacing quite quickly. On a basic level, the songs all sound similar, yet each one feels completely different, hitting you with a barrage of new sounds – all coming from one instrument. It’s a very unique album, even among experimental albums. I would recommend this to fans of the experimental and avant-garde, and casual music fans might not enjoy it… but you might!