Somnambule - Writing About Music


‘So’ begins with plaintive notes picked out on an electric guitar which are quickly engulfed by a tidal wave of digitalia which bears along an exhilarating variety of sounds: spooked clankings, seagull cries, rusting abrasions and seaweedy undercurrents. The impact and its aftermath is an exhilarating experience. All the while the guitar’s melody can just be heard beneath its surface. The sonic wave gradually becomes attenuated until a momentary silence descends. From this lull the guitar returns accompanied now by Eriko Toyedn’s intimately strained vocals. Then another wave tears singer and instrument away until eventually only the flotsam of a muted melody is left to wash to and fro.

‘So’ presents the pairing of Markus Popp of Oval and Microstoria fame and Eriko Toyedn who bears the rare merit at the time of writing of returning no hits at all on Google. Their music was developed via the long distance exchange of music files. The result are ten beguiling tracks which detail various collisions between between song and electronic noise. Tracks are named somewhat perfunctorily ‘a’, ‘b’ and so on until ‘j’.

Eriko Toyedn sings a loving lullaby to Tetsuo The Iron Man. In so doing she begins to mutate into a cyborg. Machines attack the cyborg which multiplies via digital sleight of hand into multiple robot choirs. The machines attempt to crush, distress and reconfigure the cyborg into entirely new forms. The intimacy of the cyborg’s song resists the violence of the machines and retains a modicum of her humanity (though its traces may be difficult to discern).

In its quieter moments ‘So’ comes on dreamy, full of whispers, night murmurs and longings. At these times the music is like a muted Howard Hodgkin painting animated each moment by the application of Gaussian blurs and generous texturising filters, its edges pushed and pulled at like a finger painting.

‘So’ is songform caught up in virulent, digital glossolalia, words and musical notes subjected to a spectrum of attacks from gradual decay to sudden cessations inserted like incisions made by a surgeon’s scalpel, to noisome annihilation like a road surface pulverised by a workman’s electric drill.

For the longest time, the cover appeared to be a mass of abstract marks, then suddenly it came clear and two schooners at sea appeared out of the scratches. The revealed image further underlines the salty, maritime associations etched into the beautiful rumblings, muffled clanguors, screechings and raspings that make up this music. The cd itself bears a smeared mark which resembles a wraith, perhaps the ghost of the original songs?
Colin Buttimer
January 2004
Published by the BBC