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Baker's Dozen

Amorphous Choices: Mira Calix' Favourite Music
Jude Rogers , May 8th, 2019 12:42

Jude Rogers quizzes sound sculptor Mira Calix about her favourite albums, from MBV to Britten, Stravinsky to Laura Cannell, and PJ Harvey to the bountiful joys of the Warp back catalogue

If you love music feverishly, enjoy exploring its shape-shifting powers, and would willingly drown in both its infinite avant-garde and popular incarnations, then I'd thoroughly recommend a dip into the Baker's Dozen of Chantal Passamonte, aka Mira Calix. Try and describe the South African-born, Suffolk dweller's career, and you quickly get stuck. She's an installation artist. An opera, classical and soundtrack composer. An old raver turned DJ. Then you dip into the details. She's also a curator of live insects (for 2004's Nunu, with the London Sinfonietta). An inventor of an enormous Singing Egg for the 2012 Cultural Olympiad (about which I interviewed Calix for the Quietus at the time). The score composer for the Royal Shakespeare Company's new productions of Julius Caesar and Coriolanus in 2017, as well as a setter of Shakespeare sonnets to sound in 2007 alongside Gavin Bryars. Her website shows recent work in Sydney, China, Italy, Hong Kong and Coventry. And now breathe.

She's also a hugely unsung hero of the early years of Sheffield's Warp Records – she used to work in the shop in the 1990s, and was instrumental in putting their early compilations together. But as she's not released a record for Warp since 2007, her new EP, Utopia, has been hailed in some quarters as a comeback. "It's hilarious!," she laughs on the phone from East Anglia  – not in an annoyed way at all, but with obvious warmth. "I've been really busy, dude! I mean, 300,000 people heard the last thing I did!" This was Beyond The Deepening Shadow, a choral piece embedded as a sound installation at the Tower of London that ran for a week November 2018, commemorating 100 years of the conclusion of the First World War. She's currently got a piece of video art at the Peanuts exhibition at Somerset House too. "It makes me laugh having to remind people I'm not back from the dead. I've been around – I've just moved back from the art department."   She found cutting down her favourite albums to a Baker's Dozen "fucking impossible", so ended up picking records by which she could link to other artists she loved. Even so, she still realised she'd actually picked 14 ("Oh shit!") and a while later she tweeted how annoyed she was that she forgot Talk Talk's Spirit Of Eden. Hers is a glorious list, taking in abstract electronica, noise, soul, early music, folk singing, and more, and she was also so effusive about her choices that we had to speak in two bursts – on a cold late winter's afternoon, and the following, bright blue morning. "This is my Baker's Dozen for yesterday and today," she says, throwing in a caveat. "Well, the first one I choose would definitely appear at the beginning of any list, and all the records I've chosen are amazing, but I'm pretty amorphous with my favourites, as it goes." It's been an interesting process for her too, as she's read a little about some of the music she likes – and some of the stories she thought were true about them weren't at all. "That's interesting, right? But it just goes to show, doesn't it? The music is what matters more than anything. Always!"   Mira Calix is part of the Barbican Centre's Sound Unbound this May. For more information go here and to begin looking at her Baker's Dozen choices click the image below