Matthews + Lericolais - Before I Was Invisible, old black and white photo of a couple at a formal dinner with masks superimposed over their heads

Before I Was Invisible

Here’s a gem from composer/musician Susan Matthews and multidisciplinary artist and musician Rainier Lericolais. “Before I Was Invisible” begins with a slow build-up, firefly feedback flickering over a quiet held chord. Piano enters with a two-chord pattern, followed by singing, trumpet, strings, and found samples of people singing or talking, for example reciting numbers. This piece, ‘The Healer’s Art’, is drifting and dreamlike, yet at the same time weighted with heavy tension, the unsettling sparseness and repetition of an incantation. Instruments appear and disappear like ghosts, yet despite the tense mood there’s also something strangely soothing about it.

Next piece ‘Truth Past The Dare’ brings a calmer, more yearning mood. A shivering synth or guitar chord sequence forms the basis of the track, with Matthews’ voice providing a continuously-pitched two-vowel note, shifting from “aaahhh” to “ooohhh” and back again. Most instruments are performed at low volume to create a sense of instability and precarity, passing from closeness to distance and back again, hovering astride the threshold of perception. The trumpet, though, is allowed to ring out clear and true, a lighthouse in the storm. Vocals are again used in final piece ‘Your Ghost Moves With Me’, this time forming a warm cloud of edited loops. Untuned percussion beats steady, hypnotic rhythms, before a moody stomping synth leads the track down a darker path.

“Before I Was Invisible” deals in dark colours and slow tempos without ever becoming too maudlin or lapsing into gothic cliché. The use of acoustic instruments, voice, and understated electronics and processing creates a strange sense of intimacy — a chamber music that seems at once a relic of bygone times and a powerful contemporary touchstone. Despite the apparent surface simplicity of the music, each sound, phrase, and harmony is perfectly chosen and deftly arranged. Somewhere between the thunder and excess of electronic noise and the dry cerebrality of current orchestral music, Matthews and Lericolais mark out their own beguiling niché. (Susan Matthews)

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