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Anat Ben-David
Tzipora Ronnie Angel Pope , October 23rd, 2019 09:46

Chicks on Speed collaborator Anat Ben-David's Tzipora soars towards space with earthy lyrics, finds Ronnie Angel Pope

Dr Anat Ben-David’s latest release, Tzipora messes with the semantics of the word ‘album’, reconfiguring the word to take on a truly interdisciplinary meaning. This move is very much reflective of her own broader practice, which stretches from stationary audio, to video installation, to automatic writing, to chancing with human emotion, all at once. Ben-David has got all camps covered. It’s not surprising that she has worked with the likes of Peaches, and as part of Chicks on Speed, the feminist music-cum-fine art manifestation. It seems that second nature, to Anat Ben-David, sounds like Gilles Deleuze in a Pam Hogg jumpsuit.

Tzipora, as an entire ‘entity’ (as seems more appropriate to call it) is dripping in glitches and hausgemacht charm. Instrumentally, it could sit comfortably somewhere between the ears of Kosmicher Läufer: The Secret Cosmic Music of the East German Olympic Program 1972 – 1983 and the French comic-albums of Mœbius. Ben-David’s extraterrestrial noise-collages place the vocals, by default, in opposition, for they are quite earthly and familiar. Anna Dennis’ soprano contributions (as found on ‘Iridescence’, ‘More’ and ‘Mathilda’s Song’) seem to solidify the deal in allowing the vocals to bring a sense of homeliness, even domesticity. And despite heavy pitch-shifting and organ-worthy range gaps, there’s a human familiarity to the voices, which sews quite a touching thread.

As a body of songs, the album is self-described as ‘propos[ing] an emotional intersection between human, animal, and vegetable worlds’. But I feel that Tzipora asks: ‘Does it get even more macro than this?’. Down to the grain, the speck, the microbiome. After all, it seems to account for every known vibration and transmission across the synth-spectre, in a way that make it almost too tempting to draw parallel’s with White Noise’s An Electric Storm, and other such early BBC Radiophonic Workshop affiliated sounds. Though dipping their toes into alien form, Ben-David’s words are terrestrial in nature, and the mention of everything from hawks to golden finches across the album makes sure that we’re certain of this latter fact.

Going through the album as an aural experience, the opening track ‘Iridescence’ is almost meditational, with the amalgamation of Ben-David’s geometric vocals, and Dennis’ light timbre lending a Linda Perhacs Parallelograms sense of memory to the track. Without pushing it to ‘purity’. The sun definitely shines on this track. ‘Repetition’ takes a more Soho-nightfall dark-pop approach, and comes closest to a three-and-a-half minute pop song, whereas ‘Hawk’ seems instantly more industrial and fragmented, in contrast. But ‘Hawk’ has a pronounced counter-melody and bassline that make it quite an earworm that would sound good on the blown-out speakers of a Ford Fiesta. It also incorporates the sentiment of post-apocalyptic beat poetry, with zealous, messy meter-stirring visions of ties to both Mark. E. Smith, and Kelis (‘Caught Out There’ – the track that would always be edited in to the audition-reels of angry X-Factor contestants in the mid-2000s).

If ‘More’ is the dreamscape of the album, then ‘Mr Bone’ reclaims the territory of vaguely industrial dark electronica. But the final two tracks are the ones to most overtly (or at least covertly) tinker with the ‘straight’ album concept. ‘Mathilde’s Song’ reimagines Richard Wagner’s ‘Im Treibhaus’, based on Mathilde Wesendonck’s poem, in which Ben-David describes the speaker’s feelings of longing and mortality, as echoed by plants in a greenhouse, “stretching their arms out wide” to “hug the barren void”. Fruit and veg shop existentialism, condensed into post-McLaren hip-opera.

There’s a relentless activity to Anat Ben-Davids compositions – within and around. It would be simple to riff about the work being ‘too obtuse’, or ‘too tempting to satirise’, in all of the ways one might want to have a poke at ‘performance art’. But this work is fun, smart, and quite honest. It might actually enjoy being taken for a ride outside of its gallery context, and listened to whilst cooking, or cleaning, or driving the car.

This said, Ben-David’s work demands to be taken seriously, particularly when it’s taken into the realm of beauty. Of course, Butoh master Mushimaru Fujieda plays a tender role in this. Performing in the video for ‘Overtones’ (accompanied by Richard Scott’s countertenor), Fujieda’s presence brings a whole new dimension to the experience, and coaxes us to feel the album with a physical awareness and sensibility. The melding of forms, practices, and realms (that Ben-David does so well) when made visible, renders each composition somewhere in the space encompassing the audio and the visual – somewhere openly discursive, between animate and inanimate. It’s an album (accompaniments included) to which you must pay attention – all senses, all faculties.