sferic mark 5 years of operations with a special deep dive into ancient/modern Mediteranean culture by Giovanni Napolano, usually known for crankier industro-dancehall output as NPLGNN (Reel Torque, Youth) as well as programming the wonderful MBE label (Beatrice Dillon, Conor Thomas, EVOL) - RIYL Jay Glass Dubs, Christos Chondropoulos, Alan Lomax, DJ Screw, Coda Lunga.
Unfolding along two sprawling 15 min sides, Napolano stitches threads of chopped & screwed folksong with a discrete dub strategy, seamlessly leading the mind down labyrinthine ginnels of his imagination in a sort of uchronic regression session where the ghosts of the past inform the present. In the process it humbly speaks to Naples’ position at the frontier of the current migrant crisis, and necessarily takes a standpoint against Italy’s resurgent, nationalist fascism, revealing the beauty and energy of its indigenous mixture of peoples, rather than erecting borders between them.
Taking his native Naples as a locus of Mediteranean culture, Napolano plunges the port city’s palimpsest of energies embedded by successive waves of Greek, Northern African & Eastern migration to discover an underlying, rhizomic connection and commonality linked by dub and hip hop as a contemporary iteration of folk music.
Under its titular, mythical metaphor for the fall of Babylon, and usage in Rastafari culture, ‘Le Macerie di Babilonia’ imaginatively examines a sense of self via a historic lens, drawing on Napolano’s upbringing in the chaotic port city and his autodidactic research into the rich mosaic of Napolitan heritage, to model how a folk class solidarity and shared character, with its own rules and rituals, has emerged from its syncretic milieu.
Variously a treatise on provenance; an impressionistic tale of the European north meets a global south; a dub-abstracted, allegoric, ethnomusicological collage; ‘Le Macerie di Babilonia’ is a fascinating and immersive listen that presents its maker’s dilated world view at its most mesmerising.