Review: Zorya & Brice Catherin – Algiz (Pan y Rosas Discos, Mar 1)

There’s a quote on the back of my copy of John Hawkes’ 1961 novel The Lime Twig that I can never seem to stop thinking about. Making ample use of the subtle horror that somehow lurks in even her most innocuous sentences, Flannery O’Connor states, “You suffer The Lime Twig like a dream. It seems to be something that is happening to you, that you want to escape from but can’t. The reader even has that slight feeling of suffocation that you have when you can’t wake up and some evil is being worked on you. This… I might have been dreaming myself.” It may just be the fact that I listened to Algiz for the first time right when I woke up, but my experience was quite similar to what O’Connor describes. Much of this document from the collaboration of American duo Zorya (Katie Oswell and Maria Sappho) and French musician Brice Catherin is heard at a distance; playing “zither, gong, celeste, piano, flutes, a christmas tree, organ, and tubular bells,” as well as their own voices, the three artists create a nightmarish sonic environment that makes use of the full dimensions of the church where they recorded (and even beyond, like when a siren is heard at the end of “Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz”). Rustles, shudders, and gasps cling to the walls of the space as louder elements occasionally burst to the forefront: choked organ, clanking metal, somber piano. Like The Lime Twig, the dark, decaying atmospherics and the central dramas are equally important aspects of our experience.

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