For most new listeners of experimental music that is classical in instrumentation and structure, Emily Hay is like no other artist you have ever heard before. Her new CD, Like Minds, is a tour de force of voice and flute laid over percussion and a small orchestra of instruments ranging from bass to brass and woodwinds to "electronics" and "field recordings." When I say "voice," by the way, I mean that she uses her voice purely as an instrument: animal growls, yelps and clacks, baby talk, gutteral rumblings and other utterances, occasionally followed by classical operatic passages to temper the mix. Now, it's quite a lot to get used to, and it's by no means your typical EBM thud, but it's serious avant-modern-classical music made FUN, okay? Just listen: the opener, "Call to Unarm," evokes a primitive, deep jungle-y atmosphere. The aforementioned percussion and flute take center stage, while her vocals only subtly jut out of the mostly free-form musical tapestry. But her singing jumps out into full prominence on track number 6, "We Are"--pre-verbal, glossolalic vocalizing, sung rhythmically and staccatto to the instrumentation. On "Waiting for Sara," track 10, her vocals even sound sexual--especially if you expand that particular thought balloon to include feline as well as human interplay. Track number 8, "Wha' 'Bout," features cool background samples--a hint of machinery shadowing the acoustic drumming. The second and last tracks have (respectively) my favorite tonal and chordal structures on the disc: "Liturgy of Sound" is echoey and dreary, and "Swamp Moss" is simply bluesy, with hypnotic, droning guitar twang.
The tracks for Like Minds were recorded all over southern California between 1994 and last year, in both live and studio situations. I, who also live here in La-La land, am starting to wonder what could possibly have kept me from attending an Emily Hay performance, aside from sheer obliviousness to my surroundings. And on top of all that talent, she's a high-flying music law professional who could pass for your average So. Cal. surf babe (blonde and pretty, that is.) Anyone who can't dig such an unbeatable combination doesn't know what the word "fun" means.