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The Voices Are Natural, Their Repetition Mechanical (MP3)

Just moments into “Crystal Glass” by John Praw, the hum with which the track opens undergoes two significant transitions: first, an additional tone appears, higher up, making the work more hopeful than the initial drone had suggested might be the case. And second, yet another voice is added, and unlike the first two, it clearly is a voice, recognizable by the complexity of its tonal makeup, and by the sinuous manner in which it moves amid the hum lattice that has already been constructed. As the piece proceeds, more voices are added, each more recognizable as such. But to balance the natural tones of the singing — by “singing” meaning extended melismas of soft vowels — they’re set on repeat, layered atop one another, as if reflected in a long hall of sonic mirrors. The voices are natural, their repetition mechanical.

Praw repeats this approach on the album’s second track, “Black Fog,” but with what appears to be piano in place of the voice. The effect is more distilled, in part because we’re hearing a mechanism, the piano, instead of the voice, but also because the echoing slightly muffles the instrument, softening its edges, as if to suggest we are only hearing the second or third generation of its repetition, not the original source.

The two songs are part of Split Continents+, which pairs three Praw tracks with three credited to Darkslider. Split Continents+ was recently re-released on Mine All Mine Records with two tracks of bonus material, following release last year on the Misspelled Records label. It’s available for free download (pay as you like, that is) at mamrecords.com, the files hosted at mineallminerecords.bandcamp.com. More on Praw at facebook.com/johnpraw.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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