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I Have Eaten From The Timbrel I Have Drunk From The Cymbal Daryl Worthington , September 6th, 2021 09:28

Mira Martin-Gray hacks new possibilities from a Roland SH-101, writes Daryl Worthington

It happens 1:40 into ‘Cynic’, the third track on Cypro’s I Have Eaten From The Timbrel I Have Drunk From the Cymbal. The hitherto slow shuffle of synthetic chirps and bristles is suddenly wrested apart by an immense kick drum. Equal parts ridiculous and glorious, it flings the song into a banger with such abruptness you want to laugh as much as dance.

Such micro-triumphs of wobbly epiphany dominate this five track EP, the debut from Toronto-based (in her own words) musician, improvisor, producer reluctant composer/sound artist/whatever Mira Martin-Gray’s newest alias. Taut grooves of tweezered percussion unbuckle into flapping squelches, acid bass erupts into bouncing layers of interweaving melody, sleek lines and genteel pulses eschewed for a buoyant, wonky, polymetric grace.

In her book You’re History, Lesley Chow explores the “strange specificity” which makes great pop songs great. The anomalies and abrasions which defy logic yet somehow succeed in pop’s weird alchemy. There seems to be an admiration for those same inexplicably affecting moments of quirkiness seeping through Cypro’s instrumentals. Her beat science and off-balance melodies toying with that off-kilter, life affirming oddness.

This isn’t to say I Have Eaten… is a slapstick mess. Composed and performed entirely on a Roland SH-101, a synth from the eighties which found its way into a slew of house and techno in the nineties, the vast array of textures Martin-Gray crafts reveals a deft touch and sensitivity to sound design. This is clearest on album closer ‘Cybele’, where flute sounds duel with bleeps, crescendoing like some machine powered fairy tale rave. The machine’s idiosyncrasies and limitations become sign posts for Martin-Gray to explore strange sonic avenues, but for all of their weirdness each of these tracks could be a certified dance floor weapon for the right DJ.

It marks another fascinating step in Martin-Gray’s ongoing experimentation with rhythm, blurring and ultimately dissolving the boundary between beats, patterns and textures. On last year’s ‘Stick Control For The Air Drummer’, she programmed drummer drills into a drum machine and fired them at a snare prepared with steel balls and earrings, triggering a levitating symphony of serene vibration. 2019’s ‘Out Of Body Out Of Work’ meanwhile, utilised nothing more than mixer feedback to conjure a beguiling world of speaker bending sound. Her process seems like the direct inverse to planned obsolescence. Recycling isn’t quite the right word, as it triggers associations of retro and nostalgia. Rather, she seems to defy redundancy by hacking new possibilities from a machine beyond what’s been inscribed into it through history, routine and design. The same method burns through I Have Eaten…. A single synth acting as conduit to a joyously vivid world of sounds which is anything but austere.