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Listening Party

Black to Comm: Earth

A mix of electroacoustic ambient sound and warbling androgynous vocals

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Black to Comm


De Stijl

The first voice you hear on Earth is actually more of a pre-voice. Minutes before anything fully formed arrives from the throat of London’s Vindicatrix, sharp inhalations appear, the sort of sound you might miss or otherwise ignore because, for starters, it’d usually be edited out in the first place. And even if it is there in a mix at full volume, it’d be immediately followed by that same breath on its way out, creating pitched sound via vocal cords. Here it might also be missed because of context: a building, still-molten soundscape of electronic hum, the errant snare patter, and a broken reed (saxophone, maybe) struggling for life in and back out of the background current. The actual voice comes minutes later, at first smuggled out subtly and quietly from what’s become a fairly excellent electroacoustic ambient piece in its own right. And then Vindicatrix is just there warbling in an androgynous and ungainly stork of a singing voice, recalling Scott Walker or Antony Hegarty, and so it continues on for Earth’s five explorations, all of which, in some way or another, become about what a human voice even is in music.

Black to Comm typically is Marc Richter, a German musician known also as the boss of the Dekorder record label. A few years ago he found some more mainstream-indie traction with a perfect haunt of a record called Alphabet 1968, which made fine work of blending modern classical music and inky electroacoustic drone, à la Murcof. Listeners looking for a repeat of that might be a bit disappointed. Richter’s music is sublime—the crackle-coated piano progression on “Thrones” and the glimmering, off-kilter loops of “The Children” are like life-size music boxes—but this is about guest vocalist Vindicatrix, and his own strange instrument remains the focal point. At the precise moment you learn to just accept it, the depth of the collaboration becomes inescapable to the point that a belch could burble up from Earth and reveal something important or acquire some kind of new power. A stunning record if given the time.

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