Serjical Strike / Columbia
Using their Armenian heritage as a starting point, renowned world music experimentalist Arto Tunc Boyaciyan and System of a Down vocalist Serj Tankian together explore music expanding beyond their own musical traditions. The Serart project (short for Serj and Arto — duh!) sees the pair glancing towards the Middle East and northern parts of Africa for inspiration, confronting both the familiarity of their geographical neighbors as well as accentuating the strangeness of music outside of the Western parameter they’re more known for working within.
The music is remarkably constrained, moving patiently along, rather than letting the rhythm-heavy tracks go into overdrive at each passing opportunity. Listeners will recognize both SOAD’s angular percussive attack and Boyaciyan’s jazzy approach, but the real surprise is how well the pair’s different approaches blend together. The two write songs separately, yet the album comes together as one natural whole, slowly unfolding and growing in intensity as it proceeds. If not a constantly challenging affair, it’s impressively done and near immaculately executed, showing Serart to be onto something potentially stunning if they decide to do more work together.
The accompanying DVD includes a quarter-hour-long “art” film that blends images of praying Muslims, a pipe-smoking Einstein, psychedelic animation and the music of Serart in some obvious attempt to point out that there’s more to the world than breakfast cereals and Britney Spears, and it’s all worth exploring, blah blah — a point that the music of Serart makes in a far more interesting and efficient manner than the movie.