Review Summary: A multicolored mist to get lost in, over and over and over again.
For anyone who’s approached music from the far side, VOICEsVOICEs (a.k.a. Jenean Farris and Nico Turner) should seem, at first glance, familiar enough. They come after all from a certain place, a place that exists only on the fringes of the night, in every city, in every part of the world. Those who have been there will know what I’m talking about – a Thursday night, a darkened, smokey stage, the hastily stuck up posters reading VOICEsVOICEs together with a slew of unknown bands, each carrying with them a shard of ‘the scene’ that music writers note and dismiss, only to champion it’s vibrancy in their very next sentence. Aphex Twin, in his early days, might have played there once, but none of the regulars really remember. The bill, this night, is much the same as the last one, ‘experimental’, ‘cerebral’, ‘cutting-edge’, and the crowd, in their formless tees and labeled denim sway to offbeat rhythms – at least, where rhythm can be found. This is the world that VOICEsVOICEs belong to. Origins may mark a change from all of that.
For one, Origins is nothing less an than an inscription of music at a crossroads - It takes from all and leaves no stone unturned: from Portishead, the eerie subconscious warble, from My Bloody Valentine, the haunting indecipherability, from Grouper, the emotion, and from Tangerine Dream, the micromanaged minimalism, all of which is backed by none other than the king of lushness himself, Scott Herren, who rolls under the more common name of Prefuse 73, manning the decks on production duties. At the centre through, when the dust of comparison settles, VOICEsVOICEs remain, startlingly unique and wonderfully poised. While it may be too much to track down and disassemble each and every ingredient here, a touchstone that marks it all is the influence of shoegaze, here put through a thousand musical filters to become a monster unto itself. It goes something like this: where shoegaze buried its sound under a mountain of fuzz and forced its melodies to cry out from below the fray, the effect was both immersive and sharp at the same time, stinging at the point where a hook would rise up and drag you right down with it.
On Origins, VOICEs aim for the same result, but draw a completely different bowstring to do it with. Instruments here, (at least, as far as they are recognizable as instruments, through the thick caking of effects and modulation), far from being buried, are still given the space to breathe, with the freedom to twist and turn, coloring the record with an organic liveliness as melodies cautiously slip in and out, feeling their way around some hidden sonic structure that revels in its own unknowability. From beyond the swirl of melodic mist, it’s the beats here that provide a grounding as they trudge through the textured ether, desperate to float, but chained down to provide the thudding pulse of Origins. Subtle electronics too, work their way in and out, breathing a dark and delicate energy into the veins of each and every composition. It’s when these elements are put to use and strung together as they are all through this EP, that Origins explodes with a vicious gorgeousness that makes it almost impossible not to fall well and truly in love with.
How else to explain a song like “Flulyk Visions”, the greatest track of the year so far, with it’s ghostly take on the barely recognizable genre of trip hop? Or the gut wrenching climax to “Origins”, where the wailing voices of Farris and Turner rear like sirens to the soundtrack of a Greek tragedy, a movement powerful enough to make most post rock bands hang up their instruments up in shame? Or, finally, the shards of digital glass that cut their way across the soundscape “Out From Under”, with their shimmering effects providing a chilling counterpoint the light ringing of acoustic guitar underneath the deep texture of sounds painted across the air? How else, right? Perhaps it’s too early to mark this out as a game changer, but there’s something undoubtedly visceral here, an untouchable element that tugs ever so bristly at the connection to the depths of music that not even time might seek to mellow it. VOICEs they may be, but follow their whisper, and I suspect there just might be an entire world to get lost in, come a full length.