Banco de Gaia :: Farewell Ferengistan
Toby Marks truly chooses his locution. The man behind the Oz known as Banco de Gaia, an early exponent of global beats in modern dance culture, one visit to his website is telling. Try to find out anything about him personally and he'll send you on a looping manhunt of random facts that piece together obscure information, like the fact his first song was called "Maxwell House" and that he pulled his alter-ego from Mussolini's gay lover. Then click on the section marked "Reflections on Tibet" and you'll bear witness to a passionate essay about his love of this culture and the evils of forced technology. Indeed, this last idea is what Marks bases his music on.
A trip through his two-CD set 10 Years from 2002 highlights a decade of larger-than-life beats lying against an array of flutes and trance-inducing effects. His dance floor tunes were never meant for anything but giant sound systems, though his lean toward lilting orchestral sections make him equal parts soundtrack creator. Indeed, this has been the habit of his last two outings, 2004's You Are Here and the latest, Farewell Ferengistan. And like any musician reaching the peak of their artistry, each recording seems to grow more coherent in an organic, textured manner. While You Are Here, and even older albums like Big Men Cry, had solid cuts lodged between mediocrity, Ferengistan is his most complete to date.
In his essay on Tibet, Marks rails out against the conglomeration of culture, against China's unwanted habitation of Tibet. "Can we afford to lose a people and culture which has understood and lived for thousands of years in harmony with an ecosystem which we seem to be fighting a losing battle with?," he writes. "Can we afford to let a vast repository of spiritual and human understanding which could benefit us all be destroyed to make way for more mines and factories which would only benefit some?" The dichotomy displayed in his feelings of Tibet - culture verses assimilation, tradition against "progress" - is what makes Ferengistan such an incredible record. His dualistic play between technology (the toys man create) and an organic, spiritual music (the Creator of the created) make this a 68-minute devotional album of sorts.
"Saturn Return," for one, begins a rolling escapade of inner landscape before opening up into a hypnotic mid-tempo cruiser. His use of bass, here and throughout, adds a warm sense of camaraderie. It is a song that builds upon itself and catches steam in motion, much like Ferengistan's dance-oriented "Chingiz." Using a staccato, ska-like keyboard and popping beat, the song proves as blissful as penetrative - a certain crusher on any dance floor. His use of flutes and world percussion make every track work singularly, as well as the single thread uniting them all.
Whether upbeat for the club or relaxed for sedate hours, the serene quality was intended: Farewell Ferengistan is Marks' meditation not only on the destruction of Tibet, but the inner world (once known as the Soul) all of mankind inhabits. Without swinging too far left of field in concept, his sonic production is keen on making grooves deep enough for anyone of any orientation to dance to. That is, you don't need to be a fan of Tibet, world culture or anything much at all to understand the rhythms. You simply feel them. Which is, in many ways, the most unifying music of all.