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Vox Populi! - Half Dead Ganja Music

Returning to out fringes of historic, DIY experimentalism, Platform 23 delivers a stunning vinyl reissue of the French trio Vox Populi!'s seminal 1987 cassette “Half Dead Ganja Music”. A dark ambient masterstroke that's among the most ambitious releases in their output, nearly four decades on it remains an absolutely thrilling piece of work.

Since its founding back in 2019, the London based imprint, Platform 23, has unleashed a steady stream of historical gems by Bourbonese Qualk, Andreas Hofer, Colin Potter, De Fabriek, and a handful of others, that rest at the juncture of experimental music and the countercultural movements that grew from the first wave of punk. Among the most striking and visionary of the bands to emerge from this context was Vox Populi!, whose seminal 1985 LP, “Myscitismes”, the label reissued back in 2020. Foundational in France’s tightly knit movement of industrial music and post-punk, the project channeled a vast range of influences to create a singular form of avant-gardism that has retained a loyal cult following ever since. Now, filling in further gaps, Platform 23 returns to one of the bands most important periods with a stunning vinyl reissue of their 1987 cassette “Half Dead Ganja Music”. Spanning a remarkable range of creative touchstones - from bristling electronic experimentalism to left-field “chanson”, droning, hypnotic minimalism, and a great deal between - once again we’re reminded that Vox Populi! was one of the greatest bands that’s every been.

Vox Populi! was founded in Paris during the early 1980s by Mithra Khalatbari and Axel Kyrou, who were later joined by Mithra’s brother Arash, while all three were still in their teens. Deeply inspired by the emerging movements of industrial music and power electronics, the project’s earliest gestures moved rapidly into uncharted waters, embracing idiosyncratic improvisational structures and an edgy youthful playfulness. Rising to become a central force in the French experimental scene that extended their reach beyond the country’s borders via a deep engagement with the mail-art movement, across a handful of releases produced between 1982 and 1989, the group’s music harnessed transcendental spiritual qualities and moments of intense beauty. Embodying the spirit of punk, they forged a highly individual path, incorporating a vast range of instrumentation, Persian poetry, and tape manipulation, that operated as an aural bridges between various global traditions, synth pop, industrial music, the efforts of '60s and '70s luminaries like Areski, Brigitte Fontaine, and Jacques Higelin, musique concrète, and electronic and electroacoustic musics.

The group’s singular sound - often referred to as ‘ethno-industrial’ - was product of two distinct features; the international character of its membership, and the guiding hand of Axel Kyrou, the son of Mireille Kyrou, the legendary Groupe de Recherches Musicales composer and musique concrète pioneer, who utilized radically avant-garde techniques and often deployed their Vox Man studio as an instrument in and of itself. The Khalatbari siblings were Iranian, and Kyrou had been born to migrant parents - his father was Greek, while his mother was Egyptian - naturally prompting them to look beyond France for inspiration, furthering the trajectory of an already radically open spirit. As the band describes, “We recorded everything - every idea. We would always have a cassette or a reel running. We made such different styles - freaky, alternative, experimental, industrial etc. We had no rules and no plans - our main motives were play and pleasure.” This principle doubled as the guiding spirit for their 1987 cassette release, “Half Dead Ganga Music”, now reissued on vinyl by Platform 23.

Half Dead Ganga Music” stands, as its title implies, as one of Vox Populi!’s most intense trips, forging away from the percussive psychedelia encountered across albums like “Mystcitismes” and “Aither”, toward territories of dark ambience that flow in a conjoined force across the album’s length. Comprising twelve succinct pieces, divided between a ‘Studio Side’ and ‘Live Side’, drone and sparse drum machine pulses and swirl within sheets of electronics and ambience, muted bass lines, all of which play against the mercurial vocals of all three members of the band. A masterstroke of DIY experimentalism, the musique concréte and electronic background of Axel Kyrou takes the centre stage across the album’s length, spinning an uncanny form of ritualism that seems to imply an avant-garde vision of the occult.

Brilliant from start to finish, and a crucial component in the Vox Populi! story that stands slightly apart from the rest of their output and towers with a relaxed sense of focused ambition, we can’t express how happy we are to have“Half Dead Ganga Music” back in our hands. Platform 23 has done a great service, furthering their long standing commitment to the output of the band. Issued as a beautifully produced LP, it’s impossible to recommend enough.