The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Reviews

Eartheater
Irisiri Bob Cluness , July 22nd, 2018 16:27

Eartheater explores the spaces between the cracks of gender, sex and the human on her chimerical third LP

In a recent interview with The Quietus, experimental artist, singer, and musician Alexandra Drewchin aka Eartheater talked about how she has “always been an alien” and how she “was always just on my own wavelength, doing my own thing”. Her latest album, Irisiri, is a perfect embodiment of how the alien, the outsider, the autodidact, inhabits the hegemonic body, its movements and its gestures, in the process creating a multiplicity of tensions between the organic and the machine, where the body, both virtual and physical, seem to be a constant state of flux and metamorphosis.

It is the latest instalment of a journey of musical discovery and creation for Drewchin. Her first two albums as Eartheater, Metalepsis and RIP Chrysalis, released in 2015 on Hausu Mountain, showed an artist building music together from an overflow of sources, be it contemporary pop, classical and baroque folk, trip hop psychedelia, or laptop electronica, with a series of concepts regarding technology and the body. These albums displayed a DIY spirit of the autodidact, the “organic” untrained musician who sees opportunities in the disruption and noise resulting from splicing disparate sounds and mode together. These developments have occurred alongside Drewich’s growing reputation in NYC’s contemporary music scene that, as well as being a member of avant-psych rock band Guardian Alien, has seen her collaborate with Show Me The Body, experimental harp and violin duo LEYA, as well as a variety of live performances in a variety of locations, from metal venues, to modern art galleries.

On Irisiri, there is an overstimulated amalgamation of various stylistic gestures, movements, and sounds that in a way mirror the overstimulation and excitation of internet and digital art in the way they highlight disjunction and juxtaposition. Tracks such as ‘Peripheral’ and ‘Inclined’ use samples and packets of “traditional” modes of classical instrumentation such as glistening, cascading harps and melodramatic strings, before subjecting them to a grafting of various warbling electronic sounds, tar-like bass and galloping kick drums. Irisiri is full of this cinematic style of song arrangement, such as the split screen parallel action in ‘Curtains’ where harps are delicately plucked alongside an incessantly pumping techno section, almost as if they’re completely oblivious to each other, or jump-cut styles in ‘MTTM’ where you are constantly being wrongfooted by a variety of samples and sounds that come at you from all angles. This style leads to some tracks being incredibly layered and dense, with a multitude of inputs, processes, and outputs that rub up against each other. On ‘Not Worried’ and ‘Slyly Child’, you can make out numerous components that are used to make wonkily constructed bundles of sound; a repeating and disembodied sample of a child’s voice, electronic tones, ticking rhythms, scything shards of violin, scratchy guitar, along with Drewchin’s voice and vocals being split and arranged into a choral assemblage of extraterrestrial voices.

And it’s this part of Irisiri that pushes the whole album into a different realm. While in her previous albums she buried and stratified her vocals in a variety of effects and processing, here Drewchin makes her voice front and centre, the main instrument in the album. And to hear her use her voice as an instrument of power and incongruous sound generation is a wonder to hear. Contemporary and queer electronic music has made much in recent years of warping and and href=”https://pitchfork.com/thepitch/how-sophie-and-other-trans-musicians-are-using-vocal-modulation-to-explore-gender/” target=”out”>manipulating the human voice as a site of gender, self, and embodiment to highlight and distill the alien present in our bodies and identities. While many of these artists use electronic manipulations such as pitch shifting, vocoder, and speeding up/slowing down the vocal, Drewchin instead uses her impressive voice to birth a bewildering array of vocal tics, sounds and screams. She can go from dissolute vocal fry and drawl in ‘Inclined’ and to squeaky dolls sounds and squeals on ‘Inkling’ and ‘MMXXX’, to fiery Björk-like wails in ‘C.L.I.T’ complete with crunching industrial metal drops. Along the way she twists and stretches her voice into almost inhuman sounds; On ‘Peripheral’, for example she sings and draws out single notes till they resemble nothing more than throbbing drones. And at times her voice is stunningly bleak and gothic, such as on ‘Trespasser’, where her delicate operatic singing dissolves into a wall of light against clanging electronic bells and witch-house low end.

The ability to turn her voice into a chimera of sound helps Drewchin explore her own embodiment as a site of various inhuman pleasures and intensities that is built on the back of her dance and video performances. On the “ghost track” video only release of ‘Claustra’, Drewchin contorts her own body into a crab-like humanoid, scuttling around a graveyard, while on the video trailer for Irisiri, she is digitally portrayed as a weird animatronic centaur. Throughout Irisiri Drewchin is preoccupied by her body’s component and functions, such as on “inclined” here she talks of “piercing without penetration, before demanding you to “suck her bile”. She compares herself to a snowman on ‘Inhale Baby’, licking herself till she melts before declaring in a roboting manner that “there’s so much stuff coming out of my skirt”. The final tract, ‘OS In Vitro’ takes the amalgamation of body and technology to a near pure cyborgian level. Yet Drewchin still insists on retaining her body as something that is not a quantified object as her digitised voice declares: “Computer, this body is a mystery / These tits are just a side effect / You can’t compute her / You don’t decide for my chemical”.

Irisiri is an album that explores the concepts of femininity, technology and the how many non-conforming bodies end up falling between the cracks in the seemingly implacable poles of gender, sex and the human, all her songs display seemingly disparate contrasts of surrealist wordplay, with organic, fragile tones and cold, machinist grind, as she pieces and stitches them into idiosyncratic little monsters that at times bewilders, but ultimately beguiles you with their curiosity and playfulness.

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.