Posts Tagged ‘vocals’

2nd September 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

UK duo Thraa consists of Sally Mason and Andi Jackson, whose bio states that ‘Working without the constrictions of a traditionally structured song, this duo improvise around meditative drones, combining Sunn 0))) influenced guitars with soaring vocals. Making single take recordings, they capture an organic sense of sound that has cavernous textures with minimalism at heart.’

In some respects, this debut EP brings us full-circle in terms of drone evolution, and it’s fitting in the most appropriate, and planetary sense. The most successful and celebrated purveyors of drone, Sunn O))) famously took their moniker as a reference to drone/ doom progenitors Earth, who will, in certain circles, be forever remembered for the tectonic grind of their epic second album, Earth 2, from 1993, which contains just three tracks spanning some seventy-three minutes, with nothing but guitar and bass feedback stretching out, crunching along at a glacial pace and carrying the weight of entire continents. It’s hard to believe that this release will ever be surpassed for all that it is, with two of the three tracks stretching out around the half-hour mark with no shape or form, only an endless, grating, grumbling grind. Into Earth connotes a return to base material, a slow collapse, even a decay into compost form, but also hints at a sonic slide toward this territory carved out by the original and definitive drone act some twenty-nine years ago.

Thraa intimidated at the shape of things to come in June with the release of ‘Move Among Them’, which is the first of the EP’s four tracks. It’s swampy, sparse, beginning with an awkward, gurgling, wheezing, a kind of tentative snuffling grunt in the bass region before soaring, sculpted feedback howls and churns metallic—tinged clouds of scraping ambience. It probably sounds like a contradiction on paper, but hear me out: the screeding layers blur into a whirl without definition and tumble into a vortex of abstraction, and in doing so, create the sound closest to that early Earth whorling wall I’ve heard from any other band.

The title track lacks even more overt form, spurs of guitar feedback screeching as it breaks loose from the dense, rippling wall of undifferentiated noise. There are strong elements of Metal Machine Music here, but it’s around the midpoint that a slow, rhythmic piano emerges, along with a haunting understated vocal from Sally that’s half-buried beneath the noise of explosions and / or tidal waves. It’s both dolorous and ethereal, and BIG | BRAVE comparisons aren’t out of place here, either.

Everything coalesces after the subdued scrape and low-end rumblings of ‘Elgon’ on the seventeen-minute finale ‘Over Warm Stones’. Nothing different happens as such: there is only more, in terms of duration, and in terms of atmosphere. The snaking, rattling notes that swell and shimmer provide a sparse, textured backdrop to a quivering, evocative vocal performance.

Into Earth may not offer anything new, per se, but does provide a strong contribution to the canon of emotive, evocative ambient drone / doom which features vocal, which in this instance are essential to the experience, and it’s an experience which is compelling, immersive, heavy as hell and at the same time heavenly, before it collapses into a landslide of feedback that stretches out to the horizon.

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Sub Rosa – 26th November 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

In the scheme of Ghédalia Tazartès singular career, which saw him featured more prominently in dance, theatre, and cinema than on record – a career spanning back to the mid-late 70s yielded just thirteen albums – this release is significant in several ways, not least of all in that it contains probably his final recordings prior to his death in February 2021 at the age of 73. It follows his last album release, Superdisque, which was released a full decade ago, in 2021. It also documents a collaboration that almost never happened.

As the story goes, ‘Tazartès and Chatham had met once in 1977 at CBGC’s and had not seen each other since then when they were asked by their mutual agent to play a private show in Paris. This happened in September 2018 in a house with a garden where sax player Steve Lacy had lived back in the 1990s. This album presents the recording of this show plus another show at La semaine du bizarre festival in Montreuil, France a year later, mixed with a couple of studio sessions.’

Their coming together yields something – and I’ve struggled to find a word that comes anywhere near describing what others have simply classed as ‘indescribable’ and ‘unclassifiable’ – most otherly. Tazartès singing is, in itself not only unique as a style, but also as an experience. It’s less about what it conveys as such, and more about how it touches you. It’s certainly not singing in the conventional sense; and yet, it is very much musical, rather than mere vocalisation. Tazartès sings from different parts of the body, and his voice tremors and quivers, trills, gargles, and ululates.

On the four parts (or ‘actes’) of the ‘Jardin de Simone’ performance, Chatham’s sparse, minimal backings provide a shimmering backdrop that ripples and glimmers softly. On ‘Acte 1’, it’s chiming notes, picked, on a clean electric guitar, while on ‘Acte 2’, it’s wavering woodwind which accompanies Ghédalia’s soft croon. Scraping strings create a dolorous discord alongside a wailing, weeping, skittish vocal performance on ‘Acte 3’ while the fourth and final piece floats into the atmosphere in amorphous waves if sound.

The three parts which make up the ‘Semaine du bizarre’ set are quite different, with Chatham’s backing on the ten-minute ‘Acte 1’ being denser, the electric guitar rattling and with strains of feedback filtering through the stuttering notes. The stutters are not of hesitation, but of tightly-reined tension, and over time the form evolves into an elongated tapering drone. The vocal adopts an almost falsetto-range droning quality, at times shifting to a guttural throb, at others, an open-throated note sustained on, and on. Woodwind drapes and twists around like fingers of mist. In combination, it feels mystical, in an impenetrable, occult way. Overall, this set is more drone-orientated, Tazartès’ vocals venturing more toward the lower register, the growlier, the more atonal. And yet, in places, he soars almost operatically, albeit descending like a punctured bellows after, while the instrumentation wheezes out, fatigued.

The vinyl finds a performance on each side, while the digital version features a bonus cut, appropriately entitled ‘Encore’. This, too, is quite drone-orientated, with the addition of a certain hint of an Eastern twang.

As a whole, Two Men In A Boat feels like a meditative work, and one which exists out of any kind of context, real or imposed. Without any constraints in terms of structure, culture, time, place, or even meaning – explicit or implied – the performers can be found revelling in the freedom of musical explorations. These are songs of the soul, and Two Men In A Boat is a unique document.

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