Thursday, June 18, 2015

Voicehandler-song cycle; Humbler Records, 2015

 "A music that transports the listener to the moment where he is."
    --John Cage

As Disaster Amnesiac has dug into and enjoyed the sounds of Voicehandler's song cycle, I've reflected more than a few times on John Cage's aesthetics, mostly as regards his works for percussion. These reflections come not so much from any explicit outward similarity between Cage's works and that of Voicehandler, but more so from the way in which percussion is brought to the forefront within both, and the ways in which this is so masterfully done therein. The above quote is included because it sums up the effect that song cycle has on me: with the "melodic" forms that accompany great vocals by Danishta Rivero being so much achieved by actual percussion or percussive synthesizer and hydrophonium, Disaster Amnesiac has been compelled to stay in the moment, to really listen closely and deeply for the "hidden" melodic tones that emanate from the instrumental work of Jacob Felix Heule. 
song cycle announces its presence with the gently struck gong tones of sonando, in which Rivero intones beautifully in Spanish, her vocalizing, based upon Eduardo Galeano's Memoria del fuego, initially framed by the alternately chirping and rolling sounds before Heule presses out some fantastic rolls on his large bass drum. The feel of this one is most definitely incantatory, especially within the dramatic wails and rolls that come from drums and vocals deep into the piece. This action pushes off with what sounds like bowed cymbals (hydrophonium?) and leads into jungle sounds of empty and without pain, in which Heule's ample percussive chops really shine forth as he punches and clatters all manner of tones, framing Rivero's cathartic shouts, growls, and whispers derived from Knut Hamsun's Hunger. Along with the Cage-ian ruminations, Disaster Amnesiac has also reflected upon Braxton's "gravillic weight" concept as I've listened to this one; the term as I've come to understand it describes the "physical" feel of a given player's sound, whether that sound is "lighter" or "heavier" on the senses. Jacob's "gravillic weight" has struck me as being on the heavier side-not to say that he's a "basher", because he is not, but his sounds just really impact this listener in that heavy way. This feel may also come from the amount of discrete space included between each of his various hits, which is subtle and ample at the same time. Danishta's vocal skills come to the fore on the Jorge Luis Borges El fin-influenced a meager labyrinth, sounding like private liturgical movements and framed by more gongs and chiming metals. The overall aesthetic here is somewhat mystical and reverent, making the listener feel as if they are slowly wending their way through some humidly labyrinthine imaginary space. Upon leaving that space, Voicehandler gets downright Zeuhl in the vocal department, with Rivero delivering clipped glossolalia on mi falible mano. Seriously, she'd fit in fine in duet with Christian or Stella Vander on this one. Heule gets these elastic, dragging riffs of the head of the drum, along with more metallic clang and scrape, all of which really move within their reverberations. Last up, I am a recording instrument, which evolves from the ultimate 20th Century literary document, Naked Lunch, clatters, jars, and simply rocks the perceptions in ways similar to those experienced while reading Burrough's breakthrough novel. Voicehandler deliver the Noise goods here, casting out all manner of the disc's previously heard sounds, with bubbling, aggressive synth and equally aggressive percussion leading the charge as Danishta pretty much goes crazy on the vocal side. Disaster Amnesiac has particularly enjoyed the way this one ends, with a s-l-o-w fade, a drone lasting over two minutes. Listen and imagine yourself sailing away from Interzone's shore in a stolen boat, sweat-beaded and lucky to be alive after interacting with its sonic Mugwumps. 
Getting back to the Cage allusions that I initially mentioned, I guess that the idea being pursued was this: post-Cage (and others, such as Ellington, Varese, Stockhausen, Sun Ra, etc. etc.), there have arisen multiple ways with which to produce and listen to music, ways that offer the listener opportunities to be really present. Groups such as Voicehandler offer opportunities for an active, engaged listener to do so. Trust Disaster Amnesiac when I say that in the case of song cycle, the aesthetic payoff is very much worth the work. 


Pig State Recon said...

Have you read Knut Hamsun's Hunger? It's sat in the queue of my e-reading device right now, along with some Thomas Hardy, Daniel Pinkwater children's books, and what is no doubt an underwhelming late-90's Brett Easton Ellis novel. Maybe I'll crack that Knut sooner than later.

Mark Pino said...

I was loaned a copy, but have yet to read it!