Lucrecia je iz Kolumbije a živi u Barceloni. Snima svoja nadrealna geološka putovanja mrvicu brža od nestajanja prostora, mrvicu sporija od stizanja vremena, rame uz rame tihoj, dizajnerskoj apokalipsi. Impresivno.
Interview: Lucrecia Dalt
I’ve seen what’s depicted on the cover of Lucretia Dalt’s new album Commotus in some of my worst nightmares. A billowing wall of dust, 50 feet high, surges towards the camera, dead on, moments away from engulfing a small collection of buildings. It’s a section of a photograph taken in the Texas Dust Bowl in 1935 during one of the dust storms or ‘black blizzards’ that made farming impossible across an area of the Great Plains stretching for a hundred million acres. Brought on by a malevolent combination of severe drought and improper long-term usage of topsoil, the Dust Bowl exacerbated the Great Depression and displaced hundreds of thousands of farming families. The scene on the cover is not just perennially apocalyptic but inevitably points to the second Great Depression threatening to overwhelm Europe, whose figures – bailouts, unemployment, national debts – are also on a scarcely imaginable scale.
Lucrecia Dalt is certainly feeling the gathering storm clouds from her home in Barcelona. “The crisis here has been shaking all aspects of society,” she explains, unprompted. “There’s a constant tension, changes in the mood of the city, in the graphic information. You suddenly realise how awkward the world has become, you suddenly start to think, ‘where’s the best place to leave your money?’ when you buy things. When I came to live in Barcelona, there was not the crisis there is now. The ambience has changed, the discussions on the streets – all of a sudden there was this imminent tension. I don’t feel the crisis has affected me and my group of friends directly, but the tension is constant and makes you re-evaluate behaviours, ways to continue.” Spain recently hit 24% unemployment and the country just received the largest ever bailout in financial history from the International Monetary Fund. For over a year, the country has been home to the ‘indignados’ movement that has inspired Occupy protests across the world. “I guess I have this fighting spirit, you know?’ she reflects. ‘To continue, whatever happens.”
But despite its sublimely wrathful cover, Commotus, whose title is a Latin word meaning ‘woken’, ‘agitated’ or ‘disturbed’, is an intimate, inward-looking and restrained album. Its creaking hallways echo with bathroom-tile and kitchen-sink effects emanating from occupied rooms, their peeling doors left ajar, revealing flashes of mirrors and wrought-iron bedposts within. If this album is apocalyptic, it’s the whispering stairwell in the apartment building housing the reluctant post-nuclear cannibals of Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro’s film Delicatessen – introverted, insulated from the yellowing air outside. Apart from two guest appearances, from Luke Sutherland and Julia Holter, Dalt spins everything out herself: soft singing, the lumbering drumkit, the drawling guitar, the alienated drum machine and an arsenal of effects that distance and estrange. In fact, I was amazed to hear that most of the pitched sounds on Commotus come from a bass guitar. “I wanted to be able to use the bass as the main source of sound, [which meant] expanding the register – even though it’s an instrument with a very limited register – through processing.” The processing unit that became “the essence of the record” was Dalt’s Moogerfooger, an analogue effects pedal whose more outrageous sonic consequences establish the album’s link with the experimental pop of the late 1970s and early 80s.
“I am not thinking of a style when I start to record, I am thinking of a state, a path to being in a mood.”Dalt says she recognises Felix Kubin in “Multitud”, and the Eskimo-era Residents in “Esplendor”. The 43 second sketch “Jet” could have been one of the miniatures on the latter’s 1980 concept project The Commercial Album; one of Dalt’s most elegant achievements is to make the deliberately excruciating Dada humour of the Residents into one of her album’s most alluring affectations. I also smell the bitter perfume of that other San Francisco art pop band, Tuxedomoon, whose nocturnal erotics and absurd glances are folded discreetly into Commotus’s dark love letter. It’s not a case of simple referencing though: “I am not thinking of a style when I start to record, I am thinking of a state, a path to being in a mood,” she declares. And she’s right when she also claims that she hasn't merely occupied a particular past out of nostalgia. She builds a vertiginous awareness of layers of the past, passing down through post-punk to musique concrète, to the “orchestral hits of Perez Prado” and even reaching “some essence of old boleros”. Dalt, who is a civil engineer, explains that she “was thinking of how geology works, strata – like some part of the depths could spring again and change narratives, and even though some parts could belong to other depths, it still works.”
The title of Commotus’s first track, “Saltación”, expresses this temporal, archeological relativism perfectly: saltation is the process by which different layers of sand grains are distributed by the wind over time, causing the smallest particles – dust – to hang in the air for the longest time. Another track is named “Escopolamina” after a nightmarish drug found in Dalt’s homeland of Colombia, which causes the user to be entirely in the power of others – its victims have been known to willingly hand over all their possessions to the people who spiked them, even to empty their own bank accounts at cash machines. “For this album it was important to try to imagine a place that each song is trying to occupy,” Dalt explains. “I inevitably started thinking about making songs that occupy a certain space, sometimes a small dimensional space, sometime just an image”. Luke Sutherland told Dalt he felt these spaces were ‘haunted’, but Dalt thinks it’s more complicated than that. “I don’t know if they’re haunted,” she says, “but sometimes I just feel trapped in a certain image, or state, and the song should be developed in order to continue life.” As the uppermost, most immediate layer of life is scooped up by the ill wind and whipped up into a furious incoming storm, Commotus is frozen between the continuance of life and the ghost of death, half-dead already because the end is nigh, forced to excavate the deep earth at its feet for any solutions it can. Before we can manage to see whether it’s building a bunker, planting a new crop or digging a grave, the dust cloud rolls in.
Escopolamina (in Spanish) or Scopolamine (in English) is a drug, Wikipedia tells us, that has an intensely sedating, tranquilizing effect. In Colombia, so the story goes, it is frequently used to rob people on the streets, as it will temporarily eliminate the victim's free will. "Escopolamina", the second track on Commotus, the sophomore full-length by Columbian native, Barcelona resident Lucrecia Dalt (whose impressive musical interpretation of Werner Herzog's Lektionen in Finsternis we recently featured), does have a soothing and slightly unsettling effect, as does the whole album, yet despite the thoroughly troubling cover artwork, it will most likely do no harm. Still, over the course of the LP's 40 minutes, Dalt conceives intricately constructed, carefully arranged soundscapes that appear gentle and pleasing on the surface, yet invariably imply some uncanny, surrealist subtext, a hidden meaning that taps into the unconscious. It is, in short, a marvelous, deeply entrancing effort. Below, you may stream the whole album, which was accomplished with the help of Julia Holter (playing harmonium on "Silencio") and Luke Sutherland (contributing bass for "Batholith").- Henning at www.nofearofpop.net/
“Commotus is a Latin word which means "agitated", "moved" As far as the music goes, my motivation comes from the necessity to create specific sensations, moods and from there sometimes pictures or an specific situation.” - Lucrecia DaltToday, we seem to have two branches in the school of experimental pop. One branch privileges object-hood, richness of surface, and mass-hallucinatory quotation. The other (much less celebrated) branch seeks to recapture authenticity in the form of a highly personal hallucination of music history.
With her sophomore full-length, Lucrecia Dalt follows the latter branch as far as it seems to go. She leaps into a surrealist landscape with stunning abandon, eschewing the comparatively safe tropes and song structures of her previous work. And she charts a surprisingly inventive and rewarding territory in the process. Much as it is with her newfound contemporaries at HEM Berlin, for Dalt, solitude and assemblage (of sound, genre, musicology, technique) is an exploratory zone steered toward the inner universe. To follow the music, one must be prepared to make this trip as real as sound itself.
Themes of agitation and disturbance, cumulative, impending and scalable, propel Commotus, and create a framework for understanding its emotional spectra. The music lives in the contradiction between having time to reflect on the inevitable, and the irrevocability of its outcome.
Dalt, who is a civil engineer with a specialty in geotechnics, knows that motion on a geologic time scale can be the most poignant analogy to the interminable struggle between self-awareness and sea change.- www.hemarchiv.org/
When you look at the album cover to Colombian-born Barcelona-based singer-songwriter Lucrecia Dalt's sophomore album, 'Commotus', you're going to make potentially one of two assumptions. One, the approaching consuming of cloud cover present suggests what you'll experience is most likely heavy and dense on layering potentially playing on the clarity to the record's sounds and textures. Or two, the album itself is the manifestation of air and wind in the image; light in its integrity yet incredibly mustered and without remorse...a wall of sound if perhaps we were to hear this somewhere better comparable with the atmospheric tendencies of say, the planet Venus maybe. But considering Dalt with her debut album made her mark as a song-writer interested more on the unison between ambient and electronic soundscaping and the forward-thinking honesty in folk and contemporary pop, the little matter of assuming before even pressing the play button gets even more challenging. Certainly it's an open debate over what Dalt is specifically aiming for. But what you find on an album like this, surprisingly, is something more humane and to some extent, more vulnerable because of it.
Certainly that's the case with the album's opening track 'Saltación' which immediately opens up with a billowing swarm of distorted harmonics and a bubbling of percussion and beats. Dalt herself finds herself amidst this fog as if with little choice, her voice murmuring and soothingly floating through this partially-dank partially-obscured void of eery sounds. Certainly this is the point where you think back to that album cover and realize...yes, you're in it now; no turning back, the storm has caught you and you're here to ride it out for better or for worse. That's evidently one of the main feelings I get from this album - that sense of a misstep you've either unfortunately mistaken for better things...or have just been distracted far too much to even realize. The following track 'Escopolamina' thankfully has more of a direction to it, be it confined still in this dimly lit dust-flying-across-your-face obscurity of sorts. There's a throbbing bass that hums its way through which gives way to more simple guitar strings - one vibrant and calm, the other bouncy and ecstatic in its nature - and all the while we hear Dalt humming. There's more of an electronic-like pattern to this track in the way everything feels more contained and processed, however that's not to say that the music doesn't itself feel natural. Even despite how simple and somewhat amateurish the music comes across as, there's still a sense of charisma about Dalt's methodology and it's that canny little attitude that I admire about a track like this.
It reminds me in parts about the way a band like The xx compose and manage their sound - to an outsider less than appealed, it's almost too bare to encompass any sort of lasting enjoyment. However, on 'Turmoil' it's Dalt's more warmer and humbler take on electronic influence that helps her in manifesting the track's rhythm and repetition into something more favorably elegant and with a sense of style. As the percussion continues to make these rolling hits - manifesting this sort of bellowing background ambience to the track - Halt lets her voice and lyrics measure out in small softening dabs of distance and echo. Carrying on, 'Conversa' continues expanding the density of the album's sound, the foggy and slightly mellow obtrusion of bass and guitars increasing so. There's more consideration for composition too, Halt finally showing her more pop-like state of mind for structure and she presents something a little less experimental and something that don't necessarily border on drawing out too much for its own good.
The tempo remains at a gentle and gracious bobbing of the head and it's evident from the opening third of the album this is the speed at which we'll be coasting along at. But while I wouldn't necessarily class it as a complaint to the point where it undermines the overall sound of the album, I do get the feeling that Halt's insistence on keeping this same easy-going persistence will eventually hit a musical dead-end. We get two tracks of somewhat murky, somewhat glitchy, somewhat lack-luster electronic music before we're back to the true essence of the record with 'Esplendor'. Here, even by Halt's standards of palette-making and sound-exploration, it's more stripped back and considerate than previous tracks. The bass in this track finds itself lassoed in phases off-stage as if the very instrument is being pulled back, subdued or silenced even. However, given the way Halt maintains and even emphasizes this hypnotic clarity (or a lack of it) in her vocals and the swaying passes of instruments - that sound like violins but could easily be more guitars - the self-awareness and presence in this track, and indeed its layering, is surprisingly addictive and demands room to let flow.
The more I think about it, the more I seem to imagine a sort of growth and manifestation of something in the album at this point. No more do the sounds feel invading and obtrusive - no more do they come across like an unexpected, unprepared dust cloud that seemingly takes over any and all space you hope to flee to - the progression feels all too natural and embryonic even. 'Mahán' then could be the musical equivalent of some sort of progression and shaping into something far grander. The out-of-focus bass and the muddy texture of it has a sophisticated human beat to it and it suits the song well for it seems to breathe life into a track that soon opens out into this optimistic and evidently confident rhythm of strings and tweeting electronics likewise. It's Dalt's guitar work especially that makes this track what it is, because it shows her moving away from what was this drone-like manifesting of sound. The melody feels really bubbly and alive with activity, yet at the same time still has a sense of control...or maybe, to continue the concept of 'shaping' itself, suggests a lack of, but a definite intrigue, in understanding what's around and about this region of space. 'Silencio' indeed expands on this idea of discovering one's self and discovering that which is around, the chamber-like density of Dalt's voice and the almost bumbling composite of bass and melodica/pipe instruments makes me feel the idea of discovery and even adventure or curiosity is certainly strong on a track like this.
If only Dalt would show as much sense of aspiration and attention even, in her more compact tracks - a la 'Do I Disturb Your Dreams?' and 'Waste Of Shame' - maybe I wouldn't feel as slightly hesitant with this album as I do now. Where one comes across as a simple play on the micro-house attitude of recent in its quickening play of simplified beats, the latter just feels too simplified and jammy for its own good. With the album closer 'Batholith' - which at over eight minutes certainly gives the listener a sense that this will most likely be the predominantly bulkier chunk of the record in scope - Dalt becomes ever more focused on the concept of discovery and being a sort of investigatory hub amid the dust and the fog of the track's clarity. The tribal-like pacing of percussion and the catacomb-like creeping of instruments certainly emphasize that attitude and means to subject one's self to their surroundings. But despite the lavish inclusion of this glowing synthesizer coming in half-way through or the continuing nerviness of the instrumentation, you can't help but feel like something here - or most likely, the majority of its bulk - just goes to waste. The development and progress just seems to move at a snail's pace and it impacts on the listener far more than maybe what it should do.
I guess for an album like 'Commotus' that intentionally - and quite outspokenly - sets out to study and investigate, maybe more than it might (and should) want to detail it rather, a pinch of salt is most certainly needed for a sound incorporating lush ambiance, pop and the occasional flow of electronics. The latter may not come across as strongly, but that's possibly because the record doesn't necessarily incorporate its electronic offering into its rhythm or its means to attract. Rather, Lucrecia Dalt is all about the reaction rather than the production - it's an honest response to the subject rather than a refined recreation instead. Anyone fond of synesthesia experiences will definitely be limiting their colour palette to maybe half a dozen shades on this record, put it that way...and while that is at times an annoyance or frustration, it isn't an overall problem or off-putter that runs through the record. I can for the most part understand and appreciate Dalt's reasoning for going down such an avenue. And above all - the most important point - there are some really interesting sounds emerging from out of this album. Sounds which, used correctly and refined in the right ways, could make for some even better results later on down the line. - Jordan at www.musicreviewdatabase.co.uk/
Jason Grier & Lucrecia Dalt: “Clouds”