Track-by-Track: Dijf Sanders “SUPRA”

Photo by Francis Vanhee

Dijf Sanders’s latest album, SUPRA, is an immersive, imagined sound world. The composer spent part of of 2022 traveling the South Caucasus, exploring the music and everyday sounds of Georgia. SUPRA covers so much ground, travering ethereal sonic realms as easily as folk-infused, organic stomping grounds, but Sanders pulls it all together in an enticing and intricate manner. 

SUPRA is out now on Unday Records. Pick a copy up HERE

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Birds Milk

This track is inspired by a lullaby entitled ‘Nanila Kuchkuchila’ and features vocal samples from the women’s choir Ensemble Lalkhor. I was able to record their voices at the Folklore State Centre in Tbilisi. However, very little remains in its original state – I’ve put the vocals into a granular sampler, chopped them up, and gradually played with them by adding elements like bass. 

The track has a wistful and Laurie Anderson feel to it in the beginning thanks to the nature of the voices. I wasn’t satisfied for a long time with the course of the track and I wanted to add another optimistic piece to it. Eventually, the track meanders in three parts – along with an Aphex Twin-like soft groove. I find variety in a song inspiring. 

Panduri’s Box

Not Pandora, but Panduri’s Box that is. The track features several improvised layers and is built on a sample of a panduri, an ukulele-like, 3-string, fretless instrument. A continuous loop of this instrument immediately set the cadence of the new track – albeit a granular sampler turned these original sounds into something new. On top of that, I used my Haken Continuum Fingerboards. When the full melody was established I improvised the track in one take. Drummer and friend Simon Segers (MDCIII) provided drums from which I mainly kept the kick and cymbal and some of his sounds I reinterpreted myself. 

Water of Chailuri

Most of the song titles are based on well-known Georgian sayings. Whoever drinks from the water of the turbulent River Chailuri knows that it’s over for him/her. The saying is based on a wartime story: when kidnappers got past the river Chailuri, they knew it was a lost cause for the abducted. There is a certain wistfulness or heaviness in that idiom that you also find in Georgian musical tradition and lamentations.

This song is based on a so-called Rachian Song ‘Me mashin Mogagondebi’. You hear Merab Merabishvili play his Chainuri – an ancient two-stringed instrument with strings of goat intestines that is difficult to tune. This scraping sound is pure drama, the atonal voicings resemble to me a primitive feeling – like the plowing of earth. The monumental voices of the Folk Ethnographic Ensemble Amer-Imeri matched perfectly to this. 

A Thousand Suns 

This song – a folk cut with an ambient feel – actually came into being after my return to Belgium and thus does not contain the structure of a Georgian song, but is inspired by the feeling – with its heart in Georgian culture and their beautiful melancholic musical tradition. Everything is built with a Haken Continuum – hence the synthesized feel. 

Eyes Drinking Water 

This track is based on a Wedding Song called ‘Azar’ from the Kakheti region – I made the recording during a performance of the Ensemble Didgori which included singers Givi Abesadze & Givi Bakradze. It was a pretty loopy song and I extracted one loop from the ensemble’s voices and completely deconstructed it. I initially felt I wanted to connect that with Trance or Techno, but I find the straightforward 4/4 approach of these rather ‘functional’ dance genres rather unemotional and not appropriate for these emotional songs. Therefore, I gave it my own, more subtle touch of trance. Eyes Drinking Water means being emotional, getting tears in the eyes. I thought that fit nicely with the ecstatic of this wedding song.

Knight in Panther Skin

This track is composed of arpeggiators, monumental vocals of the Shilda choir based in the town of Shilda in the Kakheti region, and a piece from a recording I made of musician Nargile Methieva. She played the Saz at her home, “an authentic plucked string instrument” and from that recording I sampled a piece that immediately set the tempo of this track. I also wanted to incorporate a swarm of swallows into this track – birds so present in rural Georgia. Spoiler: in addition to Georgian swallows actually, you can hear field recordings of Portuguese swallows here and on top of that, I also mimicked their sounds with synths to enhance the feeling. 

This track reminds me of rural Georgia and along with it the round hills from region xxx that beautifully overlook a billiard flat basin. I remember at dusk on top of one of these hills we arrived at an abandoned Orthodox church and there was chanting from a choir coming from that church. Magical.

Mingrelian Song 

A Mingrelian Song is a typical Georgian lament and a genre in its own right in the country of Georgia. I find these at their best in an intimate small setting – I am really a sucker for this kind of more intimate love or smart songs. 

This track is based on a love song “Chela” that tells of a buffalo stuck in the mud. When I first heard this song performed live before my eyes by a man with his instrument, a panduri, I was so touched by the emotions and its harmony. I realized that this song really shouldn’t be touched in any way: I didn’t want to do a pastiche given that perfection was already recorded.

So I made a kind of a counterpart or negative of this song – a solid party track as a break-up with the original song where only the chord progressions served as inspiration. It has become a synth-heavy anthem for leftfield dancefloors that is pushed forward by the drums of drummer Simon Segers. It is the very first song I started with, but it also became the very last song I finished. 

Seven Fridays A Day

This track was also made from scratch and became an improvisational cut – with lush yet melancholic sounds like ripples on the surface of water bound to slowly fade away. At its core are deconstructed arpeggiators accompanied by chants and samples of a clapping choir. One could only recognize some vocal stabs and the tone. The title refers to an idiom that has different meanings depending on the culture, I recall this phrase being used when you’ve had a good week that didn’t feel like you’ve been working. 

What you give away is yours, What you don’t is lost

This track was inspired by a wedding song’ Tsintskaro’ performed by the Shilda choir. I took a small piece of their recording, deconstructed its melody, and reinterpreted it with my own synths. With this, I wanted to create a Jean Michel Jarre-like atmosphere: it became an ethereal drifter with weird space vocals and thus the most ambient track on the record – reminiscent of Jarre’s distinctive sounds on his album ZOOLOOK. The title of the track I find profoundly beautiful: what you don’t share with others is not for eternity and it won’t enrich your soul in the afterlife. Good karma!

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