Years ago, I recall asking a friend of mine who was a drummer in a local band if we should work on an idea I had. We quickly realised that my idea of me making untrained noises with a harmonica whilst he thrashed out thundering motoric grooves was quickly going to run out of steam. Whilst it may have resulted in 10 minutes of very limited appeal in his practise space, our discussion quickly dug into what I was trying to do. My idea was looking for odd results – simply to limit the sonic palette down to two seldom heard sounds. How much juice can be extracted from pairing instruments that don’t normally get lumped together?
I was reminded of this unremarkable personal aside after numerous spins of Julia Reidy’s hugely remarkable new release Vanish. Over the course of a handful of releases Reidy has struck a rich seam of gold in her hugely creative bringing together of vocoder embalmed vocals, rich 12-string patterning and a bank of electronics that feel like genuine new ground.
Reidy’s last album In Real Life was undoubtedly a highlight of last year, so news of this release had us dreaming of little more than an extension of that wondrous recording. But Vanish is a mesmerising bold step, even further into her blistering imaginative sonic world.
Vanish is an album that initially has so much happening it’s almost impossible to concentrate. The 18 minute opener track Clairvoyant tumbles around in a manner that somehow feels like a merry-go-round that’s rotating too quickly to jump aboard. All the sonic clutter you’d expect is present but shifting in layers like a zoetrope within a zoetrope. Of course, the title of the piece does give some sense of what’s happening at the surges some 4 minutes in feel like a bridge forming into other realm. The piece doesn’t really ever resolve itself but delights in an ever-elongating tunnel of reflections. Even in its final minutes, as space and gaps begin to leak in, ghosts jump off every surface.
The second and final track Oh Boy plots a space even more stretched and warped, this time consumed in a thickening drone and pregnant rumbles. Eventually the track descends into a huge cavernous void, slowly punctuated by gently bent and twisted guitar fragments.
Whilst Vanish does just that after a fairly short 33 minutes, it feels like music that’s been devised, constructed and delivered into the world using unique means. The vocoder outlines some strange re-imagining of shiny pop music, the 12-string guitar creates a lysergic minimalist backbone and the electronics smother and tug at these elements even further.
Vanish might somehow feel impenetrable on an initial fly through but, over time, it reveals odd ways inside. All of this might make the album sound like a hard nut to crack, but there is also something hugely attractive about music that still remains enigmatic under close scrutiny, even under focus you often lose track. Whatever is actually at the heart of this 33 minute brain melter, it’s had us completely hooked and pleasantly bemused for a long time – a unique and lethal cocktail in sound.