I distinctly recall when, in 1987, I bought Mia Zabelka’s debut LP Somateme (on Editions RZ) from an amiable purveyor of unusual musics in Milan – Marco Veronesi – who unfortunately is not here anymore. And I also remember that the recorded appearances of the Austrian violinist became slim and none after a number of years. So I had lost track of her activity for a good while.
Cellular Resonance marks this reviewer’s return to Zabelka’s output, then. The album was technically influenced by producer and co-composer Lydia Lunch (a name as legendary as my utter ignorance on her sonic world, I will honestly add, with the trademark mea culpa to follow). The violin-cum-processing tactic was expanded by Lunch, who remodeled and/or further disfigured what was created in the first place.
This means: a plethora of slanting melodic lines, spiraling ravishment in mostly mono-tonal environments, coarse timbres clogging the throat quite a bit, droning components with a punkish edge. In general, engrossing material. When Zabelka raises the gestural franticness of the arco up to higher levels (as, for instance, in “#2” and “#5”) things get even more intense.
One surmises that the louder this is played, the better the result. It’s probably the correct way to understand what the main protagonist describes as “dense, intimate and mysterious stories about life, love, beauty, chaos, darkness, disaster and death”. For sure, this woman extracts serviceable harmonic juices from what, on a superficial listen, would at times resemble a mere case of pedal-enhanced mayhem.
Instead it’s cultivated conflict, with several ways to resolution clearly in sight.