Posts Tagged ‘Sparse’

Grappa Musikkforlag – 24th August 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

I used to watch a fair few horror films when I was younger, but don’t get to so much these days: my wife isn’t a fan, and, moreover, I can’t watch movies and listen to music at the same time. Spending my evenings reviewing means it’s the movies that have had to give. But when I did have the time to watch horror movies, I always preferred the films that unsettled the mind rather than overloaded the senses with in-yer-face viscera and gore. It isn’t necessarily that I like to be scared: I just like to be mentally challenged, and the imagination is a powerful thing. For the same reason, I usually prefer to invest the time in a book rather than TV show or movie. Greater effort tends to yield greater reward, and what’s more, the mind can conjure scenes far beyond the scope of any film set and special effects.

The mind’s eye is a terrible thing, but also a wonderful thing. Just look at your dreams: they’ll likely present vistas beyond anything you’ve ever seen in any movie. And even if not, these scenes are your own, rather than something pre-presented, the product of someone else’s imagination.

Rooms & Rituals is an album which engages the mind and encourages it to explore the darker recesses. The compositions are haunting, to the point of being outright scary. tapping into the deeper realms of the psyche, teasing out the horror of disquiet, and poking around in those dark, uncomfortable places. The voices are those of no less than ten female singers, although not necessarily at the same time. This is, indeed, a choir like no other.

‘Steamsaw’ sets the tone: dark, ominous, rumbling thunder and fear chords drifting almost subliminally… It’s minimal, and it’s a discomfort you can’t quite put our finger on. But it’s there, it’s real, and it gnaws at the pit of your stomach. ‘Pulser’ is eerie. Voices, disembodied, and as if rising from the grave, amidst unintelligible guttural utterances from the underworld, shrieks, and industrial pulsations and the occasional, sporadic clash of grating undifferentiated noise conglomerate to forge something stomach-churningly tense.

‘Ritual #3’ is a series of bleeps and tweets over a low-end rumble, and is reminiscent of some early Whitehouse, minus the trebly shouting. ‘Rise; is a voice lost in a gale, the sense of dislocation, distance and isolation rendered palpable in the drift. ‘Hymn’ pitches vocal melody that’s evocative, haunting, almost a Celtic folk piece, against a gnawing hovering synth hum, and elsewhere, ‘Gleam’ goes gloriously minimal, trilling organ pulses providing the backdrop to ethereal vocals that drift skyward.

Collectively and cumulatively, these pieces move and unsettle the listener, bringing a sense of dislocation, and disorientation. It creates a space for pondering. This is art.

AA

Trondheim Voices

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Cat Werk Imprint – CW11 – 8th February 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

The inspiration for Olivia Louvel’s latest album (fantastically presented, like its predecessor, in a DVD size digipak) casts an arc way back into history. Louvel, it transpires, was fascinated by the lives of Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I – two queens who existed simultaneously on the same island, during the 16th Century – a period dominated by men. Two queens who, powerful and celebrated in their own lifetimes as well as posthumously, would never meet. And so, on Data Regina, Olivia Louvel sets herself the challenge of addressing their simultaneous yet entirely separate, disparate narratives of these two bitter rivals, and presenting distinct voices as she charts their adversarial relationship.

The twenty years during which the two queens reigned simultaneously were fraught, tempestuous ones, punctuated by battles on the Anglo-Scottish borders, disputes and reconciliations, and ultimately saw Mary Tudor sentenced to death and executed.

Effectively two works intertwined – ‘The Antechamber; and ‘Battles’, with the latter comprising a sequence of relatively short instrumental pieces positioned between the longer ‘songs’ – Data Regina is no polite period drama in musical form. It most certainly doesn’t correspond with the popular Elizabeth-slanted syllabus readings of the period, or correspond with the backdrop generally presented on degree-level modules taught on ‘Elizabethan’ and ‘Renaissance’ Literature (the Renaissance was late to reach Britain in relation to the rest of Europe). Herein lies an immense problem, of course: how can we learn from history when so much of the past is unknown, shrouded in layer of mystery and obfuscation as the result of political (self)interest? Would the present be as fucked as it is if we all had a better knowledge and understanding of history? Maybe, maybe not. The age of Elizabeth I, of Shakespeare, of – my preferred man of letters, Christopher Marlowe – is a long way in the past.

Data Regina an album of dark, haunting electronica, which stands in a league of its own: it has no obvious reference points in music, history or elsewhere. It’s a bold project, for sure, and Louvel admirably achieved her ambitions with a work which conveys its intent without becoming overly mired in explication and cumbersome narrative segments which disrupt the flow.

Louvel sets the tone – both musically and in terms of narrative – with the dark swell of ‘Battlefield’. Vaporous in its atmospherics, the track combines echoey beats which clatter and rattle around between resonant, woozy basslines and sparse, drifting notes. ‘My Crown’ weaves a haunting spell, slow pulsating electronics and mournful strings first float and then rise to a tense climax. At times, juddering electronics and stuttering, glitchy rhythms spasm and render scenes of claustrophobic intensity, Louvel’s detached, icy vocals eerily menacing. The pieces – they don’t follow clear or conventional song structures – are intense sonic explorations of character and voice.

‘Langside, 1568’, is a dark, dolorous interlude, the fractured vocalisations preface the marching drums which dominate the barren landscapes of ‘Deploy’ and ‘Battle’. It’s uncomfortable, queasy listening, the elegance and grace of the sparse compositions and Louvel’s voice countered by a discomforting undercurrent that runs throughout. It’s by no means an easy, accessible work: in fact, Data Regina is dark and turbulent and often uncomfortable, but it is deeply compelling.

 

Olivia Louvel - Data Regina