Catherine Christer Hennix: voice, computer, electronics; Amelia Cuni: voice; Robin Hayward: microtonal tuba; Hilary Jeffery: trombone; Michael Northam: Time-Mirage delay
Subsequently to the damaged illusion called The Electric Harpsichord, I sincerely set myself out to restore a measure of faith in the highly acclaimed work of Catherine Christer Hennix, in this case encouraged by the potential of the lineup behind this 49-minute performance from 2011 in Berlin. La Monte Young and Pandit Pran Nath are taken-for-granted references in this mantra: Hayward and Jeffery’s brass tones layer the droning tissues and the “right” vibrations – those whose colour changes according to where you stand/walk in the listening milieu – while Hennix and Cuni’s oscillatory “aumming” should supposedly nestle the listener’s gradual unconsciousness towards complete oblivion.
In this miscreant’s hardened psyche, sounds caused by electronic generators, actual instruments or environmental incidences have always produced better results than the voice (perhaps excluding certain mythical recordings by David Hykes). Humans are flawed machines: when one is looking for absolute purity, this primal weakness can obstruct the pursuance of neural gear-shifting quite a bit. In a nutshell, a person’s vocal timbre contains hints to their own mortal defects, thus translating into a fundamental imperfection that prevents your reviewer from completely getting in tune with the sonic flow. This lengthy piece is no exception: after having established a beautiful, if not excessively profound nimbus of instrumental pulse, the systematic use of juiceless unisons, insistent glissando fluctuations and other theoretically supernatural constituents – some of them revealing themselves as downright commonplaces, if you ask me – ultimately turns the voices into a quasi-redundant presence, practically diminishing the performance’s total worth.
The Italian translation for “drone” is “bordone”, from which – by adding two letters – one might formulate the term “boredrone” (I won’t copyright it, promise), easily applicable to a large portion of this genre’s comfort zone. Surely not deserving to be described as lifeless, Live At The Grimm Museum is a reasonably honest album of spiritually tinged dronage (or evolved new age, if you will) which could be filed amongst hundreds of releases sitting halfway through the Yoshi Wadas and the Robert Richs of my archive. Yet many easy-to-warm-up chroniclers have promptly compared it to the milestones gifted to us by the historical fathers of minimalism, once more showing that all that memory retains is a short chain of sand castles which will be swept away by the first waves of shallowness. Or – just maybe – that those early masterpieces were never heard in depth to begin with.