Main image: cover art by Michael Ovaska, after Nicolaes Maes.
An intriguing hybrid of humour, DJing, field recordings and sonic adventures, Stolen Voices takes its cue from eavesdropping ‘in train stations and hotel lobbies’, as part of an academic project and album. What emerges is rich, playful, dense and profound. The album offers leftfield sounds for discerning listeners interested in esoteric experimentation that challenges and delights in equal measure.
Johanna Linsley and Rebecca Collins, above, are the Sonic Detectives, combining deadpan humour with musical precision and political discourse. Their percussion (see main image) is a unique set of neon ‘twigs’ which they build into a thunderous roar. Their voices blur to humorous effect in a surreal introduction, but later, they deliver a devastating meditation on asylum seekers and landscape which silences the room and puts everything into sharp focus.
Nichola Scrutton is, as ever, an absolute wonder- her voice can disarm, charm and bewitch. Tonight, she creates half-languages, crackles, euphoric sighs, gibberish and siren sounds. She is playful, disturbing, and mesmerising to watch. She takes the listener into otherwordly realms, an uncertain space between sleep and consciousness.
Mariam Rezaei is a composer, DJ, and clearly some kind of alchemist. She weaves soaring live vocals with mad turntable skills, the likes of which have to be witnessed live to be believed. These chopped up field recordings are like an unravelling of rural idyll. She recalibrates the way we ‘feel’ sound and see British life.
Meanwhile, there are other strange strands to the evening: FK Alexander ‘s ‘conceptual raffle’ is a welcome, eccentric addition, and everyone’s a winner (literally). And in a minimalist contrast, Pete Stollery wraps field recordings around the room, which is now in complete darkness. It’s beautiful and restorative, yet slightly eerie to experience.
Closing act, the psychedelic duo Barrett’s Dottled Beauty make soothing, analog synth music together, but it feels too soporific and a little out of place in this environment. A festival on a hungover Sunday afternoon would perhaps be more apposite. Nonetheless, a wonderful night, and you can find out more about the project here.