Tags: eclipse, georgina brett, loops, sky high diamonds, vocal, vocal loops
(Editor’s note: before we dive into this review I’d like to take a moment to introduce you to our latest RFM writer – Sky High Diamonds. We’re super-pleased-delighted to have her on board. Take it away SHD…)
Georgina Brett – The Eclipse Collaborations (Self Release) Hand-painted Gold USB Flash Drive / Bandcamp Download
I am already familiar with some of this artist’s creative sound works, so as I hit play I sit back, breathe and wait.
It drifts into my ears, delicately at first. These are succinct pockets of sound, ‘beeps’ and vocal alliterations that build in strength and velocity into layers, enveloping me, layers upon layers of sound, all from one source – the voice of Georgina Brett.
This artist works with sound and space in such a way that a 4D sound is totally imaginable through my headphones and monitors.
Georgina is based in London and makes music that involves using her voice and effects pedals, creating,
“instant choirs of sound often in an hypnotic style,”
…which can further be described as an avant- garde approach in that it can take on both a minimalist and modernist style. She has presented and performed her work nationally and internationally and at many live –looping festivals.
I am tuning-in intently to the second track, ‘Wonderful Them’ a collaboration with Lucid Brain Integrative Project running at 36 minutes and 22 seconds. There are folk-ish undertones to this piece, with a little distortion and atmospheric development as the piano sounds tinkle away. Then the vocal develops, a nonsensical, rhythmical diatribe in poetic conversation with the air. There are no audible words but sounds, hums, phonetic moaning, pulsing and breathing, so smoothly swathed in velvety textures and vocal sprinkles, they fall from the sky like multi-coloured Hundreds and Thousands. Georgina’s sighs lift and drop, like waves along the coastline, and still I feel a subtle folk vibe to this track, like she and the other musicians will break into a familiar folk song at any moment. The track is a soupy blend of electronic beeps and loops, whispering melodic guitar and piano with hints of jazz, folk and blues undertones, submersed within Georgina’s powerful vocal expressions.
At 21 minutes in I can really hear how the effect of her textured whispering mimics the delicate, almost natural sounds of bees, flies and birds in undergrowth on a summer evening. The piano sounds morph into deeper sounds and begin to lift again, taking over, ever so subtly whilst the echoes and delays carry a multitude of vocal sounds far into the distance and all around me.
I would expect to get bored with all of this vocal for this length of time, but I don’t. Instead, I am intrigued by every new sound that is introduced and becomes part of the addictive loop, and every sound that is lost, dropping away to be replaced. At 22 minutes in I find myself wondering what it is that she is trying to communicate to me through these voluminous curtains of vocal sounds.
A few gentle drum beats here and there help to remind me of the context for this track. It does have an ambient feel, it is an immense and immersive soundscape but it has structure too and I totally trust Georgina to sculpt this structure for me, she is one step ahead of this unfolding soundscape at all times, unfurling it for her listeners bit by bit.
Georgina described this process to me,
“I love the challenge of merging past, present and future into one thought process. The past being the palette of sound I have just played, the present being the sounds I am singing (or the listening I am doing in order to select the perfect next contribution to the composition) and the future being what I imagine I want to hear next.”
Returning to ‘Wonderful Them’ I find at 25 minutes the jazz-like synth sounds return; they contrast but compliment the already very present and textured layers. The soundscape then breaks down into some kind of verse structure and I am waiting, again, for that folk song to emerge, whilst reflecting upon how unexpected this structure change is, then it lifts away again into a cascade of scattered soprano showers.
No folk song emerges. By now I am too immersed in this ever-layering landscape to worry about looking for a message or a meaning. A natural conclusion to this track begins to come into view through the panning vocal and the return of the synth organ style sounds. Is that a helicopter coming into land? Vibratory, rumbling, a distant engine turning over and over and then dissolving into a sound I can only akin to omnipresent tribal chanting or dogs barking. I know, and I can hear precisely how, all of these vocal sounds somehow belong to Georgina.
Track 4 is a collaboration with Seagram Murals and ‘Flirting at the Dole Office,’ has for me, an intriguing title. I haven’t heard of the Job Centre being called a “dole office” for years and the idea of flirting in one, well, those were the days. I find this track incredibly upbeat and very enchanting with its looped vocal rhythms and drum machines. It has such a presence of liveliness, positivity and lightness within a spectrum of rainbowed frequencies that I find that my original dole office image, as pictured in my memory, has now been entirely transcended by the music and vocal sounds that express a flurry of flirtatious activity.
Track 11 is composed of a wide range of mouth sounds, such as hissing, clicking and tutting, all very precise and followed by long hissing sounds. An electronic synth organ invades; it is slightly off key at times and then breaks down completely to reveal the spontaneous variety of long drawn out, medium and short bursts of punctilious sounds, all from Georgina’s mouth. This is a collaborative piece between Georgina and Idiot St. Crazy called ‘Copy That.’ This is also a playful track where each segment spirals off outwards, morphing into another form, before it reaches the listener’s ears. These sounds from Georgina are constantly changing and towards the end of this track they become very pinched and hissy, almost like a gathering of little birds, but slightly sinister and whispering little birds.
I asked Georgina to explain a little of her process and how she can produce what seems to be both wonderfully simple yet deeply complex tracks in both live and recorded formats. She explains,
“With my more improvised pieces I like to make performance spaces where I don’t have to think logically, I know my pedal-board set up so well that it is like playing an acoustic instrument. Often I choose very simple settings, allowing me to stay in a state of concentration on the sound, inhabiting the right-brain inspiration as much as possible.”
As well as improvised and collaborative works, future plans for multiple recording and live works, Georgina runs Tuesday’s Post, which she describes as a London-based Progressive Ambient Club,
“one where the chat in between and after the performances is valued and encouraged and many of the audience members have performed with us at some point.”
Dissolve some more here…
Tags: chrissie caulfield, digitaldizzy, sky high diamonds
Sky High Diamonds – Helioglobe (download, digitalDIZZY, dD103)
Sky High Diamonds – Ghosting The Edge (download, digitalDIZZY, dD94)
Well, this is embarrassing.
I was going to review an EP called Ghosting The Edge from Sky High Diamonds (Sarah Gatter). I’ve been listening to it on and off now since shortly after it was released in June. Now I finally get round to actually doing the writing and I find out that she’s released a full length album in the meantime!
This is actually a win-win situation. Both you and Sarah get a full length review of a whole album rather than a cursory overview of a three track EP, and I only have to write it up once.
Put the lid back on the jar
…isn’t the most obviously haunting sentence you’re ever likely to hear, but it’s been bugging me since I downloaded and listened to the EP. The track ‘Black Honey Jar’ has this line repeated over and over again until it becomes like a sinister chant – or possibly an order to a recalcitrant child. Every time I came back to the EP this was the line I had remembered, drilled into my brain by its rhythmic effect and sounds that accompanied it. ‘Black Honey Jar’ has been worked on since then and appears on the album as ‘Jar.Honey.Black’. The repetition of the unlikely mantra has been reduced but, while I miss that strange refrain, the track is the better for it. And there are plenty more sinister repetitious chantings on the album to keep you in nightmares.
The two things that hit you most about this album are it’s sense of rhythm, and it’s sense of space. Even on the more (for want of a better word) ambient tracks there is a definite feel of a pulse and movement that seems central to the way the music progresses. Each track has it’s own space that it occupies too – informed by the rhythms that have been used to construct it and built upon with related textures and vocals. Take ‘Hunt Poet’ which happens over a background of sounds that are a bit like a film projector, giving the effect of a black & white cinema film happening behind the music or, at the other extreme end, we have ‘Sparking Limbs’ which sounds like it’s being performed in a war zone. The vocal styling at the end of that track make it sound like Kate Adie meets Björk. Yeah, NOW you want to hear it don’t you?
The title track ‘Helioglobe’ is one of the most beautiful examples of enhanced drone (a genre I just invented) as you’re likely to hear. The drone backing is a simple pulsating G that varies gently as the track progresses and the main vocal is a simple refrain fed through a delay with lots of feedback. Over this is layered more vocals each in their own time frame and the effect is a quite gorgeous counterpoint disturbed only by the house alarm going off 2 around minutes in – I always look round when I hear that! This is an example of the ‘space’ that exists in each piece and the way that those normally annoying ‘superfluous’ sounds you get when recording at home are here incorporated into the music. Rather than edit out that alarm, she’s left it in and integrated it into the texture such that it sounds like it was always intended to be there. The rhythmic element is mainly taken from the drone pulse, but the delay time takes over in the middle when it becomes the dominant texture for a while.
More obviously rhythmic is ‘Your Parasites’ with its industrial/mechanical beat that’s just slightly louder than the vocals such that it feels like she’s almost straining to be heard over the top. Here the rhythms get creepier and creepier as they gradually take over and grind to a halt at the end – has she been eaten by a giant cockroach? I’m too scared to look, and Kafka isn’t around to ask! Maybe that’s what the next track ‘Unseen Death Scene’ is about? ARGH! This has flies in it so maybe the insects really have taken over! I’ll wager that dark low drone is a giant wasp… Do wasps eat honey? Has anyone consulted the bees?
Speaking of bees (I don’t just throw this stuff together you know), the revised ‘Jar.Honey.Black’ is particular favourite of mine as I mentioned. The rhythms here seem derived from the vocal line that opens it, with incidental clinks from (I presume) a (I hope, honey) jar. There are a lot of seemingly incidental noises incorporated into this track and they really add to the feeling of it being recorded in an actual space – even if they weren’t necessarily recorded at the same time. There are breath sounds, and what sounds like the noise of something rubbing the microphone while recording. In my house that would almost certainly be a cat, but I’d be too much of a cleanist (another word I made up) to leave it in. Here again, the otherwise extraneous sounds are edited into the recording and made part of the rhythms of the piece. It’s all just wonderful to hear.
‘Sea Shanty Prayer’ is another drone-based track, with creaks and pops that give the feeling of being at sea on a rickey wooden ship. The large amount of reverb on the vocals means we’re either low down on deck in a large space, or we’ve been shrunk and we’re actually on top of a ship in a bottle… on the sea. I particularly love the idea of the latter so I’m sticking with it.
As for the final track ‘Sparkling Limbs’ – well. It’s hard to do justice to this in words really, you just have to hear it. Ideally 15 or more times, each louder than the last. I stand by the ‘Kate Adie meets Björk’ quip I made earlier and that’s maybe the best I can come up with. The only thing I have against this track is that it’s not half an hour longer.
I do recommend you also get the Ghosting The Edge EP to go with this album – it’s a free download, so hey, why not? Although ‘Jar.Honey.Black’ in its final form is a great track, hearing the earlier ‘Black Honey Jar’ is a different, if related, experience. Both affect each other. And it will make sure you always put the lid back on the jar.
My one concern about this album is it’s left-leaning propensities. No, that’s not a political point; a lot of the tracks sit very heavily on the left side of the stereo image. Listening on speakers, the effect isn’t too bad, it’s a little bit like she’s whispering to you in one ear. But on headphones it can get quite wearing and you can feel the palpable relief when you get to a track like ‘Ozio’ that has more conventional stereo panning. I’ve been told by Sarah that the album will be remastered and re-released next year, so I hope this small issue will be ironed out by then.
If you want to know how this album was really made (as opposed to my fevered ramblings) then Sarah has a blog post about it all on her website. I deliberately didn’t read it until I had written this review as I didn’t want it to influence what I was hearing. If you do read it then you can see just how different the production and the hearing (well, my hearing) of an album can be. That in itself is quite enlightening.
… and I still remember to put the lid back on the jar. Public service music at its best.