Album Reviews

Anna Holmer & Steve Moshier: Breadwoman & Other Tales (RVNG Intl.)

annaholmer

Anna Holmer & Steve Moshier
Breadwoman & Other Tales
Rvng Intl.

There’s something so wonderfully, puzzlingly other about the music found on Breadwoman &  Other Tales, a deluxe reissue of an obscure 1985 cassette release, credited  to Anna Holmer and Steve Moshier, who come together in a paradoxical blend of noise and beauty, stridor and sublimity. The beauty of the collaboration stems from Holmer’s beautiful voice singing in alien languages—if she were singing in English, comparisons to Carly Simon and Melanie Safka wouldn’t be out of place—paired with Moshier’s industrial Sturm und Drang, offered through everything from cold synth atmospheres to the very primitive sounds of pots and pans. This, essentially, is the ethnic music of JG Ballard’s perfect society, a compilation of sounds designed in chronological order of how his society came to be.

That’s not a bad synopsis, either; the album starts with its most guttural track, the percussive banging “Ee Che,” a primitive start, with Holmer’s incomprehensible lyrics tempering the harshness with beauty. It’s basic, its execution is simple, and it’s simply sublime. “Oo Nu Dah” advances the society; it’s much more electronic, but it’s primitive—it seems to be simply one chord held down on a synthesizer, enhanced with vocalizations. This music progresses in time, and so does the complexity;  for “Gu She’ Na’ Di,”  the synth melody is a tad more complex, with the introduction of electronic beats, and when they arrive a “Glyah,” they’re entering straight jungle/drum & bass territory, a decade before it was borne. “Yesh Ti’” is pure ethereal delight; a heavenly synth rhythm floats around Homler’s gorgeous singing, the sound of total bliss. It is here that the original Breadwoman tape ends, and it’s a perfectly beautiful note to conclude with.

It’s the last two numbers, however–bonus tracks from the era-that change the narrative tone. Holmer’s direct foreign language singing is gone. “Sirens,” an epic drone, suggests a possible invasion from those pesky humanoids from Earth? Considering the language is now English, it’s quite possible; vocals are gone, replaced by the grunting and squealing of animals—or, at the very least, a person doing a great impersonation of a tortured dog. It’s certainly ominous sounding, disturbing listening, not at all beautiful like the music before it. Then comes “Celestial Ash,” an equally epic number, with Horner’s singing simply floating in space, and a synth line that suggests the same. The remnants of a planet destroyed by humans, the sound of credits rolling while the debris and detritus of a destroyed society floats into the nothingness of space? Perhaps.

Of course, I’m simply reading this science fiction history into it all. But I don’t think I’m wrong in my interpretation—singular as it may be—because this music is really compelling enough for me to find my own definition of what it all means. What does it all mean, then? Nothing, perhaps—just weird music that inspires your creative juices with its compelling and unapologetic lack of meaning and its quiet demand that you, dear listener, create the movie to play along it is soundtracking imaginarily.

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