Sunday, 23 February 2020

Vanishing Twin ‎– Choose Your Own Adventure (2016)

Style: Leftfield, Psychedelic, Indie Pop, Avantgarde
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Soundway

1.   Vanishing Twin Syndrome
2.   Telescope
3.   Floating Heart
4.   Eggs
5.   Under The Water
6.   The Conservation Of Energy
7.   Choose Your Own Adventure
8.   Truth Is Boring
9.   It Sends My Heart Into A Spin

Guitar – Coral Kindred-Boothby
Cello – Yehan Jehan
Clarinet – Demian Castellanos
Bass – Coral Kindred-Boothby
Harp – Pamela Martinez
Producer – Cathy Lucas, Malcolm Catto
Written-By, Performer – Vanishing Twin
Vanishing Twin – Cathy Lucas, Elliott Arndt, Phil M.F.U., Susumu Mukai, Valentina Magaletti

Under the name Orlando, former member of Fanfarlo Cathy Lucas put together a couple of albums on her own Association for the Re-Alignment of Magnetic Dust (or RAM) label. Her last recording under that name – 2015’s Play Time: Music For Video Games, a split album alongside Tomaga – was a heady combination of retro 60’s pop and electronic, sometimes chiptune bleeps designed to soundtrack fictional worlds and imagined expeditions. 
Since then, she’s pulled together quite an outfit. Former bandmate Valentina Magaletti (also of Tomaga, Neon Neon), Susumu Mukai (better known as primitive electronic producer Zongamin and sometime member of Floating Points), Phil M.F.U. (Man From Uranus, Broadcast) and film-maker and visual artist Elliott Arndt have all joined her cause. Together, they have produced Choose Your Own Adventure, a record that continues to capture the adventurous essence of Orlando, but under an entirely different moniker: Vanishing Twin. 
This new name references the process of foetal resorption, which occurs when a foetus in a multiple pregnancy dies in utero. It happens in about one in every eight multi-foetal pregnancies but, in many cases, the phenomena is not even known to expectant mothers. In a strangely spiritual way, the foetus never completely dies. It’s often partially, sometimes even completely, absorbed by its twin. When they were just a cluster of cells, this is exactly what happened to Lucas’s sibling. As such, Choose Your Own Adventure recounts the mythology surrounding Lucas’s lost twin, following her on various imagined escapades. 
It’s safe to say, then, that this is an album with its starting point in some pretty hefty ideas. Lucas herself claims that the album surrounds “big ideas about birth, death, eggs and evolution,” and to an extent that’s true: ‘Eggs’ is built upon constant loops of sound, mirroring the shape of ova. Lucas asks “if you are chosen, what will you be?” querying the randomness of the process. Opener ‘Vanishing Twin Syndrome’ addresses her sibling, with the realisation that – after absorption – she “must share this world with you”. 
However, Choose Your Own Adventure isn’t exactly a tightly structured conceptual record. Instead, the major focus is on the effects of osmosis of a totally different nature: the absorption of sounds. A recent mix curated by the band (amusingly titled Cryptic Waffles) took in everything from jazz trumpeter Don Cherry and noise rockers Shit and Shine to bossa nova singer Astrud Gilberto and the arkestral innovation of Sun Ra. It’s therefore unsurprising that this is a record that completely defies genre, refusing to be pigeonholed. The mythos of the vanishing twin’s adventures becomes a conceit designed to allow the band to be incredibly playful with their music. If one thing defines this album, it’s the band’s desire to pick and choose sounds like magpies, stitching various influences together. 
The album is bookended with some of the more obvious arkestral influences. The aforementioned ‘Vanishing Twin Syndrome’ combines swathes of percussion alongside funk guitars before descending into a cosmic blend of reverberating bleeps in its latter half. Closer ‘It Sends My Heart Into A Spin,’ meanwhile, extensively utilises exotic drum beats. In-between these two points, pretty much any style is fair game. The lilting, guitar-driven ‘Telescope’ is about as close as the album gets to a quintessential pop song, albeit a very 60s one lightly peppered with off-the-wall library sounds. Elliott Arndt’s flute constantly reappears throughout the album, providing the distinctive motif on ‘The Conservation of Life’ and evoking a distinctly British image of the pastoral. By complete contrast, ‘Under The Water’ is something of a pastiche of jazz skits, lightly brushed hi-hats competing against sounds that could have been taken straight from the Radiophonic Workshop. 
Considering how widely Vanishing Twin cast the net, and that Lucas’s warm voice is the really the only constant thread, it’s remarkable how well each track flows as a unified whole. The gentle pop of ‘Telescope’ shouldn’t work sitting next to the dramatic drum rolls of ‘Floating Heart,’ and neither should the free-form, 10-minute voyage of ‘Truth Is Boring’ be comfortable alongside the tighter structures of the title track. But they do. 
That’s because Vanishing Twin lay their cards on the table before you’ve even pressed play. As its title suggests, Choose Your Own Adventure challenges the listener to explore a realm of sounds and sonic influences few would think about putting together. Should you wish to accept that challenge, it’s a heady voyage across time and space that surprises at every turn.
Eugenie Johnson / The Quietus

Juana Molina ‎– Tres Cosas (2004)

Genre: Electronic, Folk, World, & Country
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Domino, La Musica Iberoamericana

01.   No Es Tan Cierto
02.   El Cristal
03.   Sálvese Quién Pueda
04.   iUh!
05.   Tres Cosas
06.   Yo Sé Que
07.   Isabel
08.   Zamba Corta
09.   Sólo Su Voz
10.   Cúrame
11.   Filter Taps
12.   El Progreso
13.   Insensible

Composed By, Recorded By, Producer, Mixed By – Juana Molina

In a past life that came to a close sometime around 1996, Buenos Aires' Juana Molina was a well-known comedienne and television host, something akin to Argentina's Tracey Ullman, or say, Carol Burnett. It was a role she dutifully fulfilled for almost seven years before succumbing to a twerk of conscience and retreating to Los Angeles in the hopes of starting again, this time as a musician. 
Tres Cosas is Molina's third full-length since she abandoned television outright in the mid-90s, but her past as a successful comedian still clings closely to her brand. The obvious reason for that is because it's a compelling backstory in its own right, the kind of anecdote that journalists and publicists don't easily forget. But in the context of her work as a musician, the dogged funnylady characterizations begin to make even more sense; modest, meandering and resoundingly uncommercial, Molina's is just not the kind of music you would anticipate from a former star of any kind. 
Conceived as a bare-bones response to 2000's comparatively elaborate Segundo, Tres Cosas consists of breathy, wafer-thin Argentinean folk that occasionally flirts with the vanguard. Excepting the underwater synth piece "Filter Taps" and the gonzo pitch-wheel bonanza of "Yo Se Que", everything here hinges on Molina's nimble voice and a guitar, and yet it'd be misleading to stop at calling it acoustic music.

Part of Molina's appeal-- and this is what's getting her namechecked by more than just the world music set-- lies in the way her songs incorporate subtle additions like xylophones, strings, synths, loops and ambient washes without ever changing shape. One gets the sense from tracks such as "No Es Tan Cierto" (which slyly sneaks a xylophone and some sparse percussion behind its opening guitar motif) and the beautiful "Curame" (a three-shades blend of guitars, keys and vocals) that she's seeing the spaces in her songs and arranging them to match. The end result is a record of mixed materials that still sounds natural; a far cry from some of folk music's more hamfisted attempts at acoustic/electronic collusion. 
Because Molina's compositions tend to be guided by stream of consciousness, sing-songy word trails, some of them need lots of time to fully take root; others-- like the clumsy "El Cristal"-- may never germinate at all. On the whole, however, Tres Cosas is still remarkably lean in fat. Neither particularly immediate nor eager to please, it's also absolutely nothing like a punchline, but who said Molina had to be funny anymore?
Mark Pytlik / Pitchfork