Artist: Charmaine Lee
Keywords: experimental, free music, improvised music, noise, vocal music, New York WITCHFORK
Charmaine Lee’s debut release ‘Ggggg’ is one of my absolutely favourite flavours of sound… 8 tracks of vocal improvisation! People who know me personally may have witnessed some of my own humble excursions into this playpen. One of the things that I love is the endless possibilities of texture and noise that a human voice/breath can make, and this album is astounding in the range that the artist explores.
We begin with ‘CHUK’ which has hints of a balloon being slowly deflated through a stretched neck, a creaking floor late at night, and a field recording made in the wind. You can feel the back of the throat and the nasal cavities squishing air through them.
‘mboobles’ begins with what appears to be air bubbles through a straw in liquid. It could be water but then again it might be anything at all! Soon a high kitten-like squeaking blends with the bubbles, adding a texture that makes the outside of your eyebrows go down and the insides raise up. It’s as if a poor little puss is stuck in the liquid and trying to get out. The mewing gets fainter and the bubbling gets louder, it seems our tiny friend has slipped below the surface.
Next comes ‘pink’ with sucking and kissing sounds, moisture moving around in the mouth and causing our artist to gasp as if drowning on her own saliva.
It seems as if perhaps she was just readying us for some food, as ‘quiche’ is the next course. A croaky nasal drone begins and perhaps it is the sound of the microwave heating up this treat. There appears to be a malfunction, hopefully it is not still encased in it’s tinfoil dish!
The following composition ‘ooeez’ has the effect of a car radio changing frequencies and unable to connect to a single station as the vehicle roves the countryside.
It finally settles on a lesser known DIY station called ‘pickles’ which is playing an intense liquid-sucking-and-blowing track. It has overtones of birds twittering and a car engine, amazing that the artist can make these sounds simultaneously.
‘cheek2chic’ brings back some of the first creaking floor sounds but the pitch shrieks higher, as if a poltergeist is wandering in the house. The creature seems to be trapped behind a pane of glass – staring at us as it cries out to us, ever higher and more pained.
Feeling quite stressed by the ordeal, ‘labour day’ is a low droning balm sounding like a lawnmower under the sea vacuuming up shells. It is the perfect ending to this sublime exploration of vocal sound.
If you also marvel at the scope of the human breath, try Ggggg out for size! The cassettes are (naturally) long gone but the digital is here for your listening pleasure!