Monday, January 15, 2007

MIRA CALIX: Eyes Set Against The Sun (Warp Records)

MIRA CALIX
Eyes Set Against The Sun
WARP150
Warp Records 2007
10 Tracks. 62mins37secs




Buy it: CD
Mira Calix | Warp Records

Hot on the heels of her collaboration with pianist Sarah Nicolls and arranger David Sheppard as Alexander's Annexe and over three years after the stunning Skimskitta, Mira Calix returns with her most ambitious record yet. Building on her orchestral work with the London Sinfonietta and with Alexander's Annex, she presents here a rather diverse and expensive collection of complex electronica.

Calix, real name Chantal Passamonte, has been digging her own singular groove on the electronic scene deeper with each release, pushing further into field recordings and experimentation. The former Warp PR girl's unique blend of miniature sound collages have been made up of everything from urban pollution to insect noises, although, since relocating to Suffolk, the bulk of her sound stock comes from the countryside surrounding her studio. Her instinctively adventurous work has led to commissions coming thick and fast in recent years, from Geneva's Natural History Museum with the infamous Nunu, to London's Barbican Centre, which were compiled on Three Commissions, released two years ago to pieces for art installations and dance companies.

While OneOnOne was quite a dry affair and Skimskitta had a very organic feel, Calix follows yet another path for this third album as she magnifies intricately woven minute sound formations and turns them into vast pastoral symphonies. Where others spend their energy cleaning samples and polishing their production, she thrives on trials and errors, going as far as adding grit and 'accidents' to her compositions to accentuate the realism of her music.

The album opens with the delicate and acidic Because To Why, which features a school choir recorded while rehearsing with Alexander’s Annex. The composition appears very much an extension of her more recent work as Chantal Passamonte applies gossamer sonic layers, alternating between treated vocal elements and a lonely violin while running water and environmental drones can be heard in the background. Later, Protean works in similar fashion, with its birds and forest noises placed against a dense orchestral theme. The epic The Way You Are When is even more intense, blossoming from a light string section into a more complex array of voices, creaking interferences, clattering industrial matter and orchestral debris, which, although rarely crossing paths, all seem connected and impacting on each other.

The Stockholm Syndrome is a rather more unhealthy proposition. Sounding like a nasty experimental Siouxsie Sioux clad in distorted electronics, with Calix lazy voice weighing the atmosphere down, there is an element of discomfort here which makes the track stick out uneasily. Elsewhere, the litany of Eeilo offers a stark contrast to the rich formations of aforementioned pieces with its lone piano and minimalist settings, while One Line Behind uses treated sections of the school choir heard earlier layered over a dense orchestral framework. The closing hidden track is a short sequence of the choir chanting the album title.

While her two previous albums collected a great number of often short compositions, Eyes Set Against The Sun shows a move toward more expensive pieces, which undoubtedly coincides with Mira Calix's increasing involvement with contemporary classical music. The album doesn’t actually seem quite as coherent as Skimskitta and sometimes feel as the reflection of a transitory period in Calix’s work. Yet, there is much to explore on this record as she continues to craft elegant sonic tapestries, ensuring her music remains as challenging, intriguing and entertaining as ever.

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