A year ago, when multimedia A/V duo Filastine inflamed a Sodo warehouse with their chaotic mélange of hypnotic singing, exotic instrumentation, and hyperspeed visual montages, “sHell No!” banners were fluttering from the rafters.
Now, since the advent of the Trump administration, so much has changed.
For one, the Seattle music scene has been paying closer attention to foreign artists’ travel woes - like Italian band Soviet Soviet, who were denied entry at SeaTac in March.
But those travails are par for the course for Filastine, whose border-crossing exploits have often pitted him and his collaborators against the stone-faced immigration officers at the world’s airports.
Filastine, once a solo project of Seattle radical activist and expat Grey (who prefers not to give his last name) has now grown to include Indonesian vocalist Nova, who grew up singing Pentecostal spirituals, Koranic recitations, and Javanese gamelan music. The duo make potent electronic music with a distinctly political edge, drawing as much from performance art as from festival-friendly beats to portray a message of imminent environmental collapse and fraying social decay.
They live in Barcelona, but to make their most recent album, Filastine found themselves forced to work in unexpected locales as they dealt with Nova's visa challenges as an Indonesian passport holder.
Just last week, Nova did not receive a UK visa in time for a Scottish gig, forcing Grey to morph their fine-tuned live show, an audio-visual maelstrom with precise choreography, into a more humdrum DJ set.
“After holding her passport for a month, the UK approved a visa—for the two days after the dates of the gig,” Grey griped over the phone from Oakland, where he was resting after playing Lightning in a Bottle this past weekend. Nova has since safely landed in the U.S., despite the usual barrage of questions at the border, and the pair will play as planned at an undisclosed Seattle location on Saturday as part of their ongoing album tour.
Grey always sweats border crossings due to his radical activist past in the U.S.—he started the Infernal Noise Brigade marching band that accompanied the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle, among other exploits, and regularly soundtracks climate protests in Europe.
The dilemma of borders is one that Filastine tackles head-on in Drapetomania, the first album recorded by the duo, released in April by French label Jarring Effects. Elements of psychedelic electronica will appeal to the Bass Nectar set, while strains of oud, daruka, and gamelan won’t sound out of place on KEXP’s Wo’ Pop.
Filastine recorded the album in far-flung locales both by choice—aboard a ship on the Indian Ocean, deep in an acoustically-rich Indonesian cave—and by necessity: Morocco, Turkey, and Hong Kong offered safe harbor from European Union immigration rules that have become increasingly stringent post-refugee crisis.
They also found inspiration for their recordings in Seattle, past and present. International District artist hub Inscape proved perfect for lead single “Perbatasan” ("borders" in Indonesian). The decommissioned INS building’s bricks provided the ideal reverb, while a former detention cell offered an eerily resonant setting. “It was a really conscious decision to record that song in that space,” Grey said.
A soon-to-be-demolished structure near 1st and Denny offered an ample wrecking ground last summer for the filming of “The Salarymen”. The audio-visual single documents the sinister advent of the computer era, circa 1996, with Stranger Genius-award winning performance artist DK Pan, alongside experimental dancers Douglas Ridings and Alan Sutherland. “The Salarymen” is one of a four-part video series, Abandon, that showcases dance as cathartic liberation from demeaning work. (Other Abandon shorts tackle toxic mining in Borneo, after-hours building cleaners, and Barcelona’s street recyclers). The videos were released online over the last year, but the music is available for the first time on Drapetomania.
Grey and Nova have harnessed their experience editing and choreographing much of Abandon and channeled it into their new live performance, which will have its Seattle debut on Saturday.
The show’s underground location came courtesy of local DIY promoter Typonexus, which returns this weekend to curate the Globalist Series, a bevy of avant-garde music, interactive artwork, and live performance with Filastine at its center.
Among other treats, Typonexus promises a sound system designed by noise cancellation scientists from the Tautology Arts Collective, the first of its kind on the West Coast.
The precision sound rig and industrial setting will be an apropos setting to both hear and see Filastine’s latest incarnation, as much a warm-up to the summer festival season as it is a call to arms before capitalism collapses upon itself.