A mission statement, taken from the Noland label Soundcloud:
“NOLAND is not about global and local, not about identity, not about diversity and not about North and South cooperation. NOLAND is about a constellation of individuals, of identities, about laughing, arguing and the cosmic beauty of making music together in space which has no map, no grid and no rules.”
A little strange, then, that this release is called ‘Karachi Files’, features on the cover a sole individual, and features a track list of Karachi-specific titles. It is perhaps the fierce and oxymoronic determination to distance itself from spatial specificity that makes this release a little confusing and fragmented.
How do you separate artists from the place in which they create? Maybe it stems from the arrogance of a globalised West to believe that you can create art without any connection to space, that art has now become divorced from geography, and that we are all ‘constellations of individuals’ in a cosmic dance. It sounds a noble and beautiful goal, but one that is ultimately fantastical. It is also a goal that is fundamentally capitalistic, preferring homogeneity to any kind of cultural or subcultural identity.
It seems that the artists involved are acutely aware of this. That, despite the mission of ‘not global or local’, the album title and track list are what they are.
But that’s not to say that the music itself is confused. There are some wonderful tracks here, from the undulating rhythm of Rise Jamming, to the anxiety ridden and perfectly titled How Much Worth Your Passport, or the tumbling weirdness of Dust. The influence of Boards of Canada and Music has the Right to Children is evident here – one of the tracks even pays homage (Boards of Karachi).
But ultimately what disappoints the most is how much this feels like a compilation. ‘Karachi Files’, in a way, is the perfect title: this is an archive of sorts, a list, a directory. There’s little here which feels cohesive.
I think perhaps what I wanted more of was something that felt purely like Karachi – anxious, manic, paranoid, alive. More of the politically charged stuff, more tracks titled like How Much Worth Your Passport, more ruthless curation (the album is a bruising 20 tracks long).
Nonetheless, despite these setbacks, credit goes to Noland and all the artists involved for trying to find out what exactly it is about Karachi that has engineered this new wave of electronic music and, even though the album misses the the mark, it’s nonetheless a fascinating insight. It’s an album that asks many question, but doesn’t offer many answers.