The vibrant red and blue sleeve of Multivocal, the debut album by Jessica Ekomane plays a visual trick. The intensity of both colours causes a form of visual turbulence. Whilst the blue and red both fight each other, taking a jpeg supplied as part of press pack, I do the nerdy thing, dragging the image into Photoshop and convert it to grayscale. In doing so, quickly reveals these two warring opposites are in fact, tonally almost identical. Similarity and difference, are it seems – fluid states.
Sonically, these two extended pieces showcase an unusual and surprisingly revelatory phenomenon. Taking a minuscule musical gesture, looping one whilst slowly moving the other incrementally out of phase and ultimately back into phase. Of course, this conceptual treatment of sound was famously highlighted in the early tape experimentations of composers like Steve Reich in works such as It’s Gonna Rain and Come Out and many others. The effect gives the sense of a huge shifting panorama of possibility’s born from the tiniest fragment of sound.
Mulitivocal takes this notion to an extreme, built entirely from a pleasing warm but unremarkable electronic pulse that forms the bedrock for the entire 53 minutes of this album. The pulse works as a place marker and the millisecond being added becomes deeply evident immediately. The process is plain to hear instantly, and your ears quickly become hugely aware microscopes. In the opening few minutes of Solid of Revolution commands a form of observed listening and the whiff of a lab coat science experiment dissolves into a rippling psychedelic tunnel. Tiny changes become bigger and a peeling mandala of rhythms and overlays open out into dazzlingly geometries, expanding like an endless flowing zoetrope.
Never Odd or Even initially starts out with a few unadorned electronic flashes before settling into a variation on the theme of the first. This time the element is more complex and leads into a busier shifting kaleidoscope, but the overall effect is once again mesmerising.
Multivocal bluntly performs a weird task of being little more than a software experiment that outlines a psychoacoustic phenomenon. As if to prove process, the exact mid points in each side long track show the pulse as out of phase as it gets – two distinct and identical forms. However, the many worm holes that open up continually in this music are superbly enrichening creative joys. Capture a sound and repeat it and our brain recognises the repetition and the emergence of whole new worlds. The fact that so much is extracted from so little, ends up becoming a deeply beguiling journey.
Like the colours on the sleeve that play with the human eye, science can often offer a clear and level-headed explanation. But somehow, like the best creative endeavours that play with logic, Multiovocal is hugely more than the sum of its parts.