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Ingrid Plum
Corporeality Daryl Worthington , January 12th, 2023 10:07

Working with the archive of concrete poet and Radiophonic Workshop collaborator Lily Greenham, Ingrid Plum finds high strangeness in the everyday flux of modern life, finds Daryl Worthington

“I don’t understand why people ask people how is the weather like, when you have an application on your phone…” says a voice towards the end of ‘Stranger’, the opening track on Ingrid Plum’s new album, Corporeality. The audio comes from a chance encounter, when Plum was recording while walking down a street in New York.

These words hint at changing ways we relate to the world and each other, an instability in plain view on ‘Stranger’. A flurry of chirping birds is slowly submerged in synthetic tones, as if the pastoral background is getting converted into pure electric signal. It’s a sense of flux matched in Plum’s folky vocals. Tentative, her words outline a changing sense of identity and place. “Another” slips back and forth into “the other”. Plum feels the world getting stranger, and that makes her a stranger.

Much of Corporeality is inspired by Plum’s dive into the archive of Lily Greenham, a pioneer of concrete and sound poetry who used tape loops to spin language into mesmerising explosions of meaning. ‘Stranger’ reflects on Greenham’s piece ‘Outsider’. As Plum explains in an Instagram thread, Greenham considered herself both a citizen of the world and an outsider due to being an emancipated woman: “As ever she analysed the meaning of the word outsider for its semantics and its vocal performance potential.”

Greenham’s composition is defiant, a bed of stutters and elongated syllables: “I’m an outsider of outsiders because my inside doesn’t fit any concepts, any circles, any professions.” Plum’s ‘Stranger’ slows things down for closer examination, tracing processes that shape our position in the world.

Plum makes the metaphysical singable, the immense relatable. She blurs auto-theory, the mixing of the philosophical with the personal, and psychogeography, the influence of environment on the psyche. Sonically, Corporeality is a flickering collage of buzzing synths hitting field recordings, fragments of speech and Plum’s own angelic voice. Some of those electronic sounds come from one of the last remaining EMS VCS4 synthesizers, a heavily modified combination of two VCS3 synthesizers – the machines used by the Radiophonic Workshop. Here, the synth isn’t used to add a retro sheen so much as an ominous counterweight to Plum’s often gentle vocals.

On ‘Subterranean’, the panic of a train station false alarm is played out over a ragged saw-toothed mass. ‘Stutter’s clipped words see Plum coming closest to the abstracted vocabularies of Greenham’s work. On ‘The Inversion of a Shout’, Plum’s speaks over a creepy backdrop as if trying to locate the border between inner self and outside influence. Or perhaps a mindfulness app has become a bit too personal: “your loudness is overcompensating again.”

Corporeality reflects the complexities of how we sense our surroundings, and our selves. We’re all unstable people in an unstable world, a fact Plum’s folk-meets electro-acoustic soundscapes embrace.