Whether or not we know what it is, we have all seen examples of “hostile architecture.” It is defined as a design trend through which public spaces are altered to inhibit inappropriate use. The most glaring examples of it are bench dividers that discourage the homeless from sleeping in public or spikes that limit where birds can nest. On their debut tape, Philly experimental duo Forgotten Bottom tackle this concept and the ways in which the city has changed throughout their lives. As a viola and bouzouki drone duo, Forgotten Bottom’s music is instrumental, intriguing, and deeply affecting.
Hostile Architecture is not for the faint of heart. Forgotten Bottom, made up of Myles Donovan and Eric Bandel, create piercingly dark and vast soundscapes. After building up a grand and mysterious backdrop, “Touch Nothing Until the Signal” dissolves into a dizzying nest of strings. “The Dark Has Been Posoioned So It Will Not Bark” is dirge-like in its pacing, but a rewarding listen. The tape is worth a listen just for its song titles, which are all quotes from Philadelphians.
Through their work in the city’s shelter system and their observations of the city’s gentrification and current opiod crisis, Donovan and Bandel have come to see Philadelphia differently than other artists do. On Hostile Architecture, they present a view of the city that is more critical than it is prideful, making it a striking and important listen. Rather than coming from a place of pure hatred, the tape’s darkness and judgement comes from a deep love for the city and the hope that it can do better. The project’s last track, “All Men, No Windows,” ends with a snippet of applause. This serves to ground the tape’s messages in reality and jolt listeners into action. Though otherworldly, Forgotten Bottom’s music reflects the harsh reality of this, and every, city. As transporting as it is, it should be understood as a call to action in our local communities.
Listen to Hostile Architecture below. The project is available on cassette through Black Horizons.
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