R. Elizabeth LSSN069 1200

R. Elizabeth – Every And All We Voyage On (Night School Records)

Brave, ambiguous and spacious with it’s use of tape and vocal manipulation and backmasking yet also repetitive and occasionally dragging, Rachael Finney – who performs under the moniker R. Elizabeth – has produced an experimental album that simultaneously encourages one to explore the limits of their imagination but also tests one’s patience and concentration.

Every And All We Voyage On is bookended by ‘Cut Piano’ and ‘Piano Cut’.  On both tracks R. Elizabeth takes simple piano recordings and twists and bends them so much that they reverb, wobble like jelly and depict the woozy nearly out-of-conscientiousness state of breathing in aesthetic. It may not interest everyone, but from an artistic perspective it’s intriguing. Particularly on ‘Piano Cut’, we enter into a unsettling world similar to David Lynch’s Eraserhead; it’s grainy, disorientating, headache-inducing with it’s persistent taps, suffocating and yet this world feels empty at the same time. But in the distance there is a gleaming hope in the familiarity of the piano playing. Much like the clouded music in the Lady in the Radiator scenes.

Much of Rachael Finney’s music on this record belongs in a sound & art exhibition. ‘Tragedy and Trade’ is frustratingly monotonous when listening with  headphones, as it repeats the same loop of crackling, airy and beginning-of-the-day ambience for 6 minutes before Finney starts vocalizing about “the gaps in the silences”, but by that point you’ve probably skipped the track. However, it would really work well at accompanying a multi-screen presentation of saturated sunrises or a time lapse of chicks hatching. Similarly on the title track ‘Every And All We Voyage On’. It’s a curious industrial-jazz fusion, with whirling machinery sounds blended with bluesy piano make it sound like the soundtrack to a battle between Shaft and the Terminator. Yet because it grows tedious and unvaried for 7-and-a-half minutes long, it works better as background music at an exhibit.

‘Spirtual To Symphony’ drags on in a humdrum cycle, making it feel longer than that it actually is, but before it grows tiring, it’s a interesting mix of Julia Holter and Kraftwerk (also hear ‘An Imagine Is Different’ for the same comparison) and a futuristic commentary on identity: “A different kind of intimacy, a kind of female masculinity, I sense how to be, from vision to visuality.” If that track predicts gender preferences in the future in a robotic manner, the Casio keyboard-driven ‘Back From Ten’ is perhaps R. Elizabeth at her most human, lamenting about the past. It sounds like she is reflecting on her childhood, with a nod to hide-and-seek in the counting, a high pitch chipmunk vocoder perhaps representing a child-like speech and a quasi-organ maybe suggesting something religious.

Every And All We Voyage On is the kind of an album that opens up the debate of what an experimental album should be and how it should be heard. Those kind of elements can be captivating or self-indulgent in an alienating manner? Unfortunately most of Every And All We Voyage On falls under the latter description. Rachael Finney confesses: “I dunno, to be honest I don’t really care” on ‘An Imagine Is Different’, it might be hard for listeners to not feel the same way about some of the compositions.

 

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