Music Reviews

Artist: Zoë McPherson
Title: String Figures
Format: LP
Label: SVS Records
Zoë McPherson offers up a 7-track (sorry, 7 “chapter”) mini-album that blends together moody digital electronica with organic found-sound elements, emotive vocalisations and multilingual whispered spoken word layers, rumbles and atmospherics. A variety of natural-sounding and geographically broad percussive rhythms (mostly contributed by Falk Schrauwen), occasionally underpinned by soft techno patterns, quietly keep things ticking along without ever wandering to the forefront.

Throat singing has arguably become one of the clichés of experimental music in the same way birdsong has become synonymous with ambient, so when the press release opened with a description of the field recordings of Inuit throat singing, I feared it would be entering that cliché space- but it doesn’t at all. The throat singing is just one element, often used as a substitute for dark electronic bass almost, and certainly not the general highlighted feature.

Longer pieces like opening track “Sabotage Story” have their own internal unfolding progressions, as layers come and go, sometimes purely atmospherics, sometimes harder and more percussive. In the latter half of the album shorter tracks are more single-idea affairs like the gentle pseudo-harmonica (or possibly actual harmonica) of “Hardingfele.”

It’s richly-toned, introspective, sombre electronica with a few quirky twists that don’t break the sincerity. It maybe falls between several stools in terms of purpose and effect to the listener but it’s undoubtedly an interesting listen.

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