Stine Janvin gets seriously otherworldly on her powerful new album "Fake Synthetic Music"
Few vocalists have pushed the boundaries of their art like the Norwegian vocalist and sound artist Stine Janvin (ne Stine Janvin Motland). The Berlin-based musician started out in improvised music, but she's embraced more radical techniques over the last half-decade she's constructed a sonic world that she alone inhabits. While she possesses a deep vocabulary of extended techniques, she's consistently sought at recontextualizing what human voice is capable of. She made her stunning 2014 album In Labour (Pica Disk) with fellow Norwegian sound artist Lasse Marhaug, situating her voice in a wide variety of environments where ambient noise served as a crucial component.
She's been pretty quiet on the recorded front in the last five years, but last week she made a powerful return with Fake Synthetic Music (PAN), a mind-warping solo project that's left my head spinning. Using a variety of electronic manipulations she transforms simple utterances into a visceral experience, by turns maddening and harrowing. The recording is aural representation of a rigorous live performance practice she's developed that also deploys lights and spatial distribution. I'm dying to experience it live, but the recording itself is mindfuck that needs no other help to make a deep impression. In the press materials Janvin says, "...I wanted to explore how I could vocalize in a way that would combine architectural sound with dance floor sequences," she says. While PAN often releases music that inventively subverts club music, Fake Synthetic Music goes so much further from anything used for a dance floor I have trouble parsing the connections.
Her source material seems to consist of little more than high-pitched swoops, screams, gurgles, and sweet if ominous long tones that are intensely extended, chopped-up layered, and wildly transformed by computer manipulations. There's a kind of watery bubbling sound on "Lips" that doesn't sound remotely human--and probably isn't it--but most of the tracks on the new album contain a vocal core, and by the time the fourth piece, "Like Right Now," explodes from the speakers, Janvin makes use of little else, crafting granular sound bombs that often sound like a police siren gone berserk, as rising and falling pitches produce violent psychoacoustic effects that would drive conservative listeners insane. The tonal interference and acoustic beating is unhinged, with very few outside textures or elements to soften the blow--there are some squiggling, far away bass tones on unknown provenance on "Like Last Night." Her pitch control is impressively precise, but this recording is more concerned with what she can electronically with her voice. Below you can check out a piece called "Tripple A." Hold tight.
Vladimir Ashkenazy, Dmitri Shostakovich: Piano Trios 1 & 2/Violin Sonata (Decca)
Schlippenbach Trio, Gold is Where You Find It (Intakt)
The International Nothing (...and Something), The Power of Negative Thinking (Monotype)
Éliane Radigue, Ψ 847 (Oral)
Okkyung Lee, Dahl-Tah-Ghi (Pica Disk)