The first thing to say about W/V is that this project makes a lot of sense. The ‘W’ part is James Welburn - a man whose spirit resides in both his mortal flesh and the subterranean drones of his bass guitar. Many know James for his grand LP of epic narratives, Hold (Miasmah, 2015), but throughout the years leading up to this display of imposing composition James was involved in a number of fruitful collaborations and played many an improvised noise / drone set. As a matter of fact, this is the second Silken Tofu release he’s had a hand in, the first being Barchan’s Soliton – a lengthy, intense improvisation recorded together with Motorpsycho and Zu drummer Tomas Järmyr.
The 'V' stands for Juliana Venter, a vocalist and composer as audacious as her native South Africa. And who better to pair with a drone musician than an opera singer known to accompany an orchestra of motorcycles and string instruments? Juliana has an otherworldly voice with the uncanny ability to transform from beauty to beast mid-word, which she combines with a visionary, political mind that entertains ideas most would dismiss as ‘too extravagant’. She has been quite the collaborator in her own right, working with Phil Winter and Benge, Joseph Suchy, Thomas Mahmoud, Ramsay Mackay and many others.
This improvisational record consists of two parts, both quite different from each other. Side A was recorded in Berlin over the course of one cathartic session, delivering 15 minutes that sound less like a piece of music and significantly more like an exorcism seance gone horribly wrong - there are explosions of blood, shit and slime, there are appendages spinning at unseemly angles and the windows have long shattered, unleashing the terror inside. It all begins with Juliana Venter’s shriek capable of penetrating the soundless vacuum of space and a vicious assault of James Welburn’s pounding bass guitar. Having drawn their initial kinetic limits in the most violent manner, the duo then proceed to maneuver, testing each other in various sonic areas like a pair of murderous flâneurs. There is a distinct feral giddiness to Side A which can only be achieved by two unfamiliar musicians excited to go blindly into the unknown. With the versicoloured facets of Juliana’s mercurial voice and James’ sharp sense of structure and musical ability, ‘the unknown’ can stretch far indeed.
Side B was recorded over 3 sessions in Oslo and exhibits a more polished sound - Welburn and Venter becoming W/V. There is purpose, direction and wise restraint to this atmospheric, colossal drone track. It expands like a scroll, slowly, imperially, illuminating hidden caverns by bathing them in monumental soundwaves. Each whisper or touch of the string is so palpable you could crush bone with it. No longer is this an elemental clash - the voice and the instruments weave a potent singular narrative, each emboldening and revealing a form of the other never quite heard in the past.
James Welburn: electric bass, objects & effects
Juliana Venter: voices & objects
Recorded in Berlin & Oslo - 2016
Edited & mixed in Lillehammer - 2017
Mastered & cut by Frederic Alstadt at Angström Mastering - Brussels
Artwork & design by Thisiscorrosive - Paris 2018
Text by Tadas Švenčionis
This track was tagged with the following keywords: Experimental.
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