“The worst of us”

The French label Beko just released a collaborative EP of Estela Lamat reading her poetry accompanied by the UK-based musician Maps and Diagrams. It’s really a remarkable sonic experience; go here for the free download of the four mesmerizing tracks.

I was happy to have done the ghostwriting for the Handstitched* press release:

For this haunting EP, Maps and Diagrams has engineered richly textured soundscapes to accompany Lamat’s intense and elegant recitations, but it is much more than that: one cannot so easily separate the music from the poetry, the speech from the sound, for within this palimpsestic and polyglot play of vocal and non-vocal cartographies, figure continually melts into ground and ground thickens to emerge as figure. The real strength of these tracks is the way in which they unfurl into greater and greater complexity. For example, in “caminaba como un pájaro,” the expansive resonance becomes punctuated (and punctured) by ominous percussion while lyric clarity gives way to distorting opacities of speech; this is a work of layered condensation, of static hiss and refraction.

In “the land of never ever,” the brooding and pulsating contours of Maps and Diagrams’ sonic landscape become variegated with stuttering interferences and ratcheting dissonances which ultimately converge and dissolve, leaving behind only a spectral signature; likewise, Lamat’s voice splinters into an articulate disintegration, shadowing itself, mimicking its echo, as if in a fugal flight away from its own identity. Thus, when she signs off her trance-like and entrancing audiotext with the phrase “Yo, la peor de todas, en el país de nunca jamás [I, the worst of all, in the land of never ever],” we are paradoxically (and uncannily) unsure of whose voice we are hearing and where it is coming from.

This conceptual collaboration truly allows (to paraphrase Ezra Pound) the poetic image to become a dark vortex of vibrating energy, from which, and through which, and into which delirious drones, vertiginous reverberations, and sonic fragments are constantly rushing.

~ by Michael Leong on December 13, 2010.

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