Rising Geneva-based act Cyril Cyril features two of the city’s most acclaimed experimental musicians collaborating together:
- Cyril Yeterian: In Geneva, Yeterian may be best known for being the frontman and accordion player for acclaimed Cajun blues trio Mama Rosin, an act that released four albums of material that evoked the ghosts of the Mississippi Delta and Mardi Gras before splitting in 2015. Yeterian also co-founded the forward-thinking, global, taste-making record store and label Bongo Joe Records.
- Cyril Bondi: Bondi is a stalwart figure in the Swiss experimental scene, best known for being the founding member of Plaistow and for leading the Insub Meta Orchestra, an experimental ensemble featuring 60 musicians. Bondi has also collaborated a number of acts including diatribes, La Téne and Komatsu.
Interestingly, Cyril Cyril can trace its origins back to 2017. With the duo both seeking new creative challenges, Yeterian took on the banjo, adding a shit ton of effect pedals to it, so that it began to sound more like a bouzouki (a Greek, long-necked lute) or a krar (a five or six sting lyre, played mostly in Ethiopia and Eritrea) — and simultaneously, Bondi cobbled together a cannibal drum kit with massive jingle bells and tropical nut shells embedded into his marching bass drum.
2018’s full-length debut, Certaine Ruins quickly established their unique sound, a sound that generally meshes the tough plucking and rhythmical patterns of Lebanon, The Levant and North Africa. The duo supported the album with rapturously received, relentless touring across the European Union which helped the band develop an electric live show which was equally at home on a big festival stage as it was in a small, sweaty club.
Building upon a rapidly growing profile across the European Union, the duo’s highly-anticipated sophomore album Yallah Mickey Mouse is slated for an October 16, 2020 release through the aforementioned Bongo Joe Records and Born Bad Records. The album’s title is derived from a true incident: Yeterian and Bondi were touring with Swiss experimental transppop duo Hyperculte through the Middle East. While on a trip visiting the pyramids, Hyperculte’s Vincent Bertholet (double bass) rode a camel hilariously named Mickey Mouse. “He [Betholet] was so uncomfortable riding a camel, it was such a scene,” Cyril Cyril’s Cyril Yeterian recalls in press notes. “Watching him tell with a very French accent ‘yallah’ to the camel to have him step forward on the sand. So ‘yallah mickey mouse’ was born. We immediately thought about the power this sentence had politically speaking. No words to add. Arabic world vs. American imperialism? Is there anything to say people don’t know already?”
To celebrate the album announcement, the Geneva-based duo released three singles from the album:
- “Les Gens,” Yallah Mickey Mouse‘s first single is a hypnotic and hallucinogenic fever dream centered around galloping African polyrhythm, shimmering banjo arpeggios played through tons of effects, dub-like reverb, punchily delivered call and response vocals — and of course MORE COWBELL! Sonically, “Les Gans” is a slick synthesis of Evil Heat-era Primal Scream, Levitation-era Flamingods and traditional Middle Eastern and African music. Yes, it’s the genre-defying sounds that I’ve long championed — but it’s only possible in a borderless, genre-less world. “The idea of the song was paradoxically born at a moment where we were completely fed up with how extreme tourism had become in both the most popular spots close to us and all around the world.” Cyril Yeterian explains in press notes. “What turned out really odd is that a few months later, everything was stopped by the Covid. And suddenly there was no one in the streets, and we realized our song could be understood as the nostalgia we have about the time we were gathering altogether. So we invite anyone to get this song the way they prefer!”
- “Al Boustan,” the album’s second single is centered around a hypnotic, dance floor friendly groove, shimmering banjo and organ and a forcefully insistent thump. While clearly drawing from the Middle East, the song seems to also hint at Bollywood as a result of the song possessing a cinematic expansiveness. It’s mind-bending — and if you put yourself in the right situation, the song can help you head to a higher plane of existence. “’Al Boustan’ looks at how our narcissism and the narrow fascination of ourselves deserve to come up against the unalterable force of the elements that decorate our daily lives,” the duo explain. “The trees will always grow and the moon will rise and set as long as a human eye looks up to the sky. Nevertheless. Against everything. We are many and we are nothing.”
- “X-Crise,” the album’s third single is centered around driving polyrhythm, percussive banjo arpeggios, punchy melodies and an infectious hook. This song sounds as though it comes from a much-older place, something far older than time, when our earliest ancestors sat in front of the fire telling stories about the origins of everything. And in some fashion, it’s the most Tinariwen-like track of the three — but while brimming with a mischievous sense of adventure.
All three tracks reveal two things to me:
- Bongo Joe Records is releasing some of the wildest, most forward-thinking music out there today.
- Cyril Cyril may arguably be one of Geneva’s most forward-thinking and uncompromisingly challenging acts.
I’m looking very forward to the album and more of the labels’ releases — and to this album.