amiandos

CD collection of electronic pieces - release on Unsounds December 2022

Tracklist

  1. Side of the Mountain (4:44)
  2. Thin Dust (8:44)
  3. Cottonestone (4:55)
  4. A Ghost of Spring (15:03)
  5. Empire Within an Empire (7:20)
  6. Enaerios (7:44)
  7. A Secret Lake / A Million Voices (16:05)

Amiandos CD cover

Amiandos (or Amiantos) is the name of the asbestos mine in the Troodos mountains in Cyprus, operating between 1904 and 1988. It was also the birthplace of my father — my grandfather worked there as an electrical engineer. A village and community grew around the mine as it expanded to become one of the largest asbestos producers in Europe, producing in its history about 1 million tons. The gradual realisation through the 20th century of the darker side of asbestos has been well documented. Even though millions have suffered and died from cancers caused by the inhalation of the thin fibres of the rock, asbestos continues to be mined in many parts of the world, regardless of the safety of its workers. A beautiful and dangerous rock. I remember as a child receiving a box of stones of Cyprus for my birthday and being taken aback by the splendour of the chrysotile rock, the type of asbestos found in Amiandos. The seven pieces in this album relate to some strands of history of Amiandos.

The first piece, Side of the Mountain quotes a text by Lawrence Durrell from his 1957 book Bitter Lemons of Cyprus. There is a paragraph where he recalls visiting the mine and being struck by the unearthly atmosphere. He describes the mountain as being 'casually raped' by the mining industry that has settled there. Thin Dust is a piece with a seemingly nostalgic air, but an abrasive surface, touching on the early days of the mine when many women and children were tasked with collecting rocks on the open pit. Cottonestone, a translation of the ancient Greek word for asbestos 'vamvakopetra' is a more aggressive and noisy response to the mining practice, juxtaposing a field recording of the surrounding nature with a mechanical and menacing electronic soundscape made of processed drum machines. A Ghost of Spring imagines a springtime 'paniyiri,' a feast in the mountains of Troodos in the years before the second world war. Fragments of archival recordings of folk music from this period are sampled and played through modular synthesizers. Empire within an Empire refers to the double nature of empire in a place like Amiandos. Not only was Cyprus under British colonial rule at the time, but the private international ownership of the mine throughout most of its existence made it a power unto itself. A large police station was built in the area to control the workers, where the policemen were paid extra to put down protest that occasionally broke out. The Pathé News sample at the beginning of the track refers to a 'Renos Kyriakides' (no direct relation) who was responsible for the bombing of the Amiandos police station, one of the first targets of the EOKA colonial uprising against the British in 1955. Enaerios refers to the 36km cable car that used to run from the mountains to the Limassol port where the asbestos was loaded onto ships. My grandfather used to go to a cafeteria near that now non-existent dock, to play backgammon and drink, listening to cassettes of 50s Greek singers like Trio Kitara who feature on the track. The last piece, A Secret Lake / A Million Voices, alludes to the current state of the mine, where a regeneration project has been initiated to restore the soil in the area. The larger crater has been made into an artificial lake, but a smaller one in more inaccessible area of the mountain naturally fills with water in the winter and has been dubbed the 'secret lake', an open wound in the mountain that is slowly and steadily being healed by nature. The cost of this industry has been immense not only to human lives but also on the environment.