In the tiny little corner of music that OBLADADA sits, the world of pop music feels very far away. Frequently, my only interface with it is occasionally what’s on the radio when in my wife’s car or if I catch some TV show just before I put my headphones on. It’s a world I’m hugely unfamiliar with, and being honest, something that doesn’t really catch my ear very often at all. As part of that can of worms, lots of this music in this sphere is presented squarely as a fight for sales, market share and money. These songs are constructed to hit a demographic and it would seem, a fairly consistent ingredient in this mix is the use of auto tune.
The idea that a vocal component in music had to conform to perfect pitch, time and tune meant that talent shows like The X-factor as well as hugely successful chart music is almost blanketed in its use. The fact that a piece of fairly inexpensive and easy to use equipment could turn those with average vocal abilities into flawless ones has many fans.
Perhaps with ears pointing towards more adventurous sounds, this idea of perfection seems an unnecessary goal. So, for me, the very mention of auto-tunes use in the information supplied alongside In Real Life had me questioning whether this was recording I’d like. It’s certainly not the first time evidence suggests I’m possibly a bit of a music snob.
However, any concerns I had about this album (that it’s on Oren Ambarchi’s Black Truffle should have been another clue!), evaporated during the very first listen. Even if the sections that do indeed auto tune Julia Reidy’s vocals on In Real Life, her latest album, the cumulative effect is a work that exists in a truly vibrant zone of music somewhere between pop’s back door and pure kaleidoscopic texture.
Crystal Bones starts with a rolling monstrous clanking. Ships rigging before electronically charged clouds crash, and deeply buried auto tunes vocals slip around like oily pools as bleeping bubbles rise through everything. The whole dynamic builds for the first 7 minutes before blossoming into a thrilling guitar dappled electronic corridor. Banks of sounds ebb and flow as more elements slowly seep in… Eventually another 7 minutes later the piece again folds in on itself before settling on a mutated chiming figure that again starts climbing.
The second half of the recording is taken up by the equally episodic Adulare and another the hugely addictive palette is whipped up – yet more absolute joy. Interlocking guitar and electronics with all manner of stuff floating around. Again, the sound reformats itself around 6 and half minutes in superbly magnified by seesawing electronics over a kosmic guitar strum… More buried voices and confirmation if it was needed that we are indeed deep into an absolute gold mine.
The sleeve of In Real Life frames a compelling but difficult to understand image created by Suze Whaites. That crystal is mentioned in the first track and the second is called adulare (seemingly a type of geological crystal) point me towards a guessed at concept here. Much like the strange layering of the sleeve, Reidy’s music is focussing on elements frozen in geological samples. Shine a light, rotate and refocus, there is always new edges and textures related and otherwise. Your eyes, ears and brain can only really make sense of taking these views in one by one.
In Real Life is a wonderful construction of sounds that whilst their marriage may be a little surprising, does in fact work together with absolutely stunning effect. Reidy’s innovative music is born out of her open eared approach and as this 39-minute beautiful example reveals, it’s a sonic revelation.
More about Julia Reidy can be found here.