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Lea Bertucci
Xtended Vox Daniel Hignell , December 7th, 2022 10:33

This compilation curated by the NYC-based sound artist, featuring cuts by Phil Minton, Audrey Chen, and Cansu Tanrikulu (as well as Bertucci herself, with Ben Vida), proves at once enlightening and at times amusing, for Daniel Hignell

There’s something about avant-garde vocal-based works that feels inherently exciting – a feeling built, perhaps, on the knowledge that a full exploration of the human voice can’t help but produce material well beyond the confines of any expected musical discourse. Eschewing the traditional limitations of the singing voice in favour of the vast, less well-trodden ground of its entire timbral and dynamic range, such endeavours seem designed to both navigate the broad spectrum of performative possibilities, and to test the patience of any listener who might be expecting more normative approaches.

Xtended Vox, a compilation of vocal pieces curated by Lea Bertucci, achieves this aim with aplomb, creating a dazzling, near-intoxicating assault of glossic, guttural utterings. It’s stirring stuff – and whilst I would defy anyone born with a sense of humour not to find this sort of vocal work a little silly at times, the entire affair is nonetheless conducted with an equilibrium that balances the strange and the animalistic against the considered and the austere.

Curator Lea Bertucci collaborates with Ben Vida on ‘Tulsa’, a screeching swell of inflicting rhythms, voices re-pitched and granulated to conjure everything from woodwind-esque trills to rich plucked basses. Those parts most reminiscent of a human throat – fragments of the spoken and the sung – sail through the ether, whispering and pulling against the alien terrain, rising and falling with the sudden bursts of clicks and filtered noise.

In contrast, Audrey Chen and Phil Minton – who together provide three of the album’s five tracks – offer an almost purist take on the avant-garde voice. Rather sweet sung parts meld with the more invigorating vocal work-outs for which Minton is known, and whilst the overall soundworld is (certainly by design) not always entirely pleasant, the sheer scope of timbres produced is admirable. Minton’s breathy spittle dances against a backdrop of flutish, fragile tones and stunted syllables, a clear and welcome humour running through the entirety of their three tracks.

As if trying to double down on the seemingly infinite expressiveness of the voice, Cansu Tanrikulu’s ‘Drank vs. Drunk’ takes the proceedings in another direction entirely. Sparse, beguiling, and beautiful, Tanrikulu’s work melds restrained, cautious vocal artefacts with the sort of electro-acoustic terrain inhabited by Luciano Berio, albeit with a mite more subtlety and space. It is a terrific piece, and one that serves to perfectly exemplify the quality and experimentalism of Bertucci’s compilation, an album that not only catalogues the avant-garde potential of the voice, but does so via the creation of music that is technically impressive, enchanting, aesthetically pleasing and, yes, a little bit silly. Xtended Vox is certainly not for everyone, but it’s a rare treat for those willing to approach it with an open mind.