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Maja Jantar/Simon Pomery
Lunalia#5 Russell Cuzner , March 2nd, 2016 22:03

The moon can have a strange effect on people's behaviour. Known as the lunar effect, its specific phases, whose cycle roughly spans one month, have been thought to influence the very rhythms of life from mating to sleep patterns. Workers in hospitals and prisons have reported marked increases in distressed or aggressive behaviours on each full moon, while being a "moonling" or "moonstruck" were once ways of referring to those displaying irrational or insane behaviours, the Latin for the latter giving rise to the phrase "lunatic".

With Lunalia - the collaborative project of Ghent-based voice artist Maja Jantar - a seemingly irrational, lunar-based behaviour generates a beguiling confusion of poetry, music, field recording, improvised performance and sound art. Her simple rules provoke at once both disciplined and chance encounters: every night for a complete moon cycle, she and her chosen partner independently make a solo recording in their separate locations; these are then combined, not through any considered editing process, but by lining up - or eclipsing, if you will - their mid-points.

Started in 2012 with Angela Rawlings, the Canadian multidisciplinary artist with whom Jantar continues to perform as Völva, then with poet and fellow Belgian Vincent Tholomé in 2015 and again, late last year, with London's voice and electronics improviser Sharon Gal, the project's diverse outputs are most identifiable through Jantar's extraordinarily affecting vocals. They range from drifting, song-like tones – languid yet lush and language-less – through the stuttering paralanguage of displaced phonemes, to raspy in- and ex-halations and, well, grunting. To date, her daily take has been largely paired with similar unpredictable utterances from her collaborators either exploring their own repertoires of glottis and larynx or performing spoken word poetry.

However, on this latest, fifth round of the project, Galway-born, London-based Simon Pomery contributes more electro-acoustic, electronic and concrète sounds than voice-based vibrations to the mix. Although perhaps better known for his live shows and recordings as Blood Music; ferocious blending of live and electronic drumming with post-punk detritus that doesn't immediately position him as an obvious choice for Lunalia, Pomery also happens to be a published, prize-winning poet and lecturer in creative writing. As such, Lunalia flexibly draws from both sides of his art while, arguably, providing Jantar with the project's most unpredictable foil so far.

Here Pomery lays down loose strumming and junkyard percussion or presents emissions from what sounds like faulty machines or triggers arrays of stealthy sines and convulsing pulses, but also occasionally pauses for more lucid thought in the form of his own poetry. His no frills delivery and plain speaking vocabulary feel poised at the opposite end of the vocal spectrum to Jantar's hyper-expressive paralanguage, deceptively masking the surreal edge of its narrative.

Experimental art, particularly music, isn't always enhanced by knowledge of the process that formed it. It can prejudice or distract our sensibilities, occupying our minds with the craft and less the resulting form. But with Lunalia, and particularly this fifth cycle, the most exciting aspect is in the knowledge that each track is the product of two independent mindsets that, although working at the same time, were blind to each other's endeavours. By pairing each daily contribution without recourse to any of the usual modifications in recorded sound (particularly editing), any synchronicities, be it tonal, rhythmic or mood are more keenly felt. From their very first encounter on 24th January, when Jantar's mewling and serene baying travelled over, under and through Pomery's growing, grumbling, machined textures, their purposeful yet off-the-cuff sound poetry seems psychically forged.

Of course, like the lunar effect, such claims can be dismissed as coincidence, a product of confirmation bias, where any independent sounds placed together can be expected to resonate with each other on one level or another at some point. But even if moon magic and psychic energies aren't at stake, the soundworks of Lunalia #5, with their advertently synchronised creation and inadvertently synchronised qualities, definitely give a strong sense of the linking of three minds – Jantar, Pomery and the listener.

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