Audrey Chen ~ Glacial

September 6, 2012 § 1 Comment

There is precious little information about this album on the internet, and not much more about Audrey Chen, other than a short bio that website maintainer upon website maintainer feels obliged to post. Chen is a cellist and singer, an improviser who incorporates electronics into her performances, and she is squarely situated in the avant-garde camp. According to her bio, she’s collaborated with all sorts of “out” musicians: Phil Minton and C. Spencer Yeh, to name a few.

I don’t remember where I got this CD, but I came across it a few weeks ago while doing some organizing – it comes in a transparent blue plastic clamshell case, and the only text is “Audrey Chen – Glacial” printed on the disc. The CD contains one 22-minute eponymous track that seems to serve as a showcase for everything Chen is capable of, although I wouldn’t be surprised to find that she has far more tricks up her sleeve than are in evidence on this recording.

(I’m doing something completely new here, to me, by the way: writing about a piece of music as I’m listening to it for the first time. This may not be ideal as I’m not able to give my whole attention to the music, but I’m able to at least get some thoughts down during the initial listening. (The piece just ended – I’ve been at this for more than 22 minutes now apparently, most of it surfing the web trying to find info on Chen). In any case this will be something I will listen to again with full attention, because there is a lot going on in those 22 60-second packets (you can only use the word minute so often during the day).)

Chen starts the piece playing a repetitive score,  dryly and somewhat abrasively, with minimal effects. It feels distancing and cold – the title makes sense here. By the end of the 22 minutes, the listener understands the importance of electronics in Chen’s music, and something else: the voice. It’s analogous to some sort of hallucinatory film sequence where we see Bjork singing and then superimposed within the image of Bjork, the voice, the soul within belongs to Diamanda Galas. When it’s done, the glacier’s begun to melt. There’s a clever analogy to be made here to global warming, but it’s too late. I need to catch up on Daniel Johnston’s back catalog. How’s that for ending on a non-sequitur?

(If you can find “Glacier,” get it. If you can find anything else by Chen, check that out too. 4/5 stars, or AAAA, or 8.9 if you’re a Pitchfork reader.)

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