As a genre, the phrase “world music” is as imprecise as it is historically fraught. It dates back to a much-storied meeting of music industry insiders in 1987, when a cabal of record label executives, musicians, and journalists gathered in a room above a pub in London. Discussing how to boost the popularity of non-Western artists with Western audiences, they decided on a catch-all term to help shops currently struggling to categorize the artists. As a pragmatic solution, it proved wildly successful, but it’s always implied an uncomfortable, imaginary divide. “World artists” are framed as “authentic examples” of a distant, exotic culture; it positions them outside the shifting musical currents that shape and re-purpose contemporary music.
On Reassemblage, Visible Cloaks attempt to do something like the opposite. A duo, made up of Spencer Doran and Ryan Carlile, their music combines traditional instruments from all over the world. Taking cues from pioneering, Japanese synth meddlers—like Yellow Magic Orchestra and Ryuichi Sakamoto—the pair filter different sounds into a pin-sharp, hi-res clarity, seeking to bridge borders rather than reinforce them. The results sound like a product of everywhere and nowhere all at once.