LA-based artist and composer Geneva Skeen’s debut, A Parallel Array of Horses, will be released on Room40 on October 19. It documents the here and now, taking into consideration a mutant, cancerous cell which invades and spreads within the collapsing and easily manipulated skeleton of society. She records the steady erosion of systems, boundaries, the loosening of morality, and the disintegration of once-acceptable practices – things that were once stable, well-oiled, and self-assured, but which are now falling into disrepair. Efforts to uphold these principles – to keep them afloat, at least – actually speed up a decline which bubbles and froths around the sane before devouring them in a swamp of violation. The title itself comes from a geologic phenomenon where a block of a specific type of rock becomes completely separated by mineral veins from its counterpart within another body of rock, and is then stacked upon multiples of others like it.
Reason and rationale are dismissed and drowned out by a society that refuses to accept facts…a hallmark of the insane, or, at best, the sick. Things that cannot be true are taken as truth. Fictitious headlines bombard the mind on a daily basis, and it can feel as though one is looking through a glass darkly. Skeen doesn’t take a side: she takes a stance of neutrality as she aims to understand the underlying logic in and amongst the collapse itself; the why as to the starting of the fire. Perhaps failure was inevitable; civilizations come and go. Musically, Skeen mentions her own failures when trying to conceptualize and compose this breakdown: ‘I am finding equal failure in streamlined, singular methodologies for both comprehension and composition’, she says.
Representation in a world that refuses fact is uncertain and deceptive. Time is complicated by the failure of the linear. Inside, what we see is not what we hear, what we hear is not what we think, what we think is not what we feel
The falling away of normalcy is a terrifying prospect.
Dread lives in the slipping away of acceptable practices… and in the inappropriate, the horrific, now becoming a part of the everyday fabric.
‘The Sonorous House’ opens with a recording of a wind storm in the Mojave and closes with the world’s largest colony of Mexican free-tailed bats leaving their cave to swoop through the Texan night air. But they’re not the only ones looking for fresh prey. Comparisons can be made to certain political situations and geological shifts (or declines) across the globe. Skeen’s sharp observations are rooted to the electronic instrumentation, fixating upon processed textures to digest and address worrying changes. Her music rises like an ominous dawn, one of flame-red rather than glowing peach, precarious in spite of the music’s heaviness. An anvil of a drone will suddenly go missing, dropping off the side before exploding back onto the scene. It’s the equivalent of a jump scare, and it highlights the unpredictability of the landscape, both psychological and environmental. Other digitally processed sounds creep around in the background, lurking in the dark.
Skeen manipulates her music, but she aims to speak the truth instead of reciting a meaningless and deceitful slogan. Snaking textures and recorded sounds traverse the tortured lands, sympathetic to and in tune with the surrounding environment and not a causal factor in its disintegration. Skeen’s sounds evolve carefully and scientifically on an uncertain, vacant, and ill-lit road, and the destination is apocalyptic. ‘Los Angeles Without Palm Trees’ has the dark tint of neo-noir as it looks straight into a bleak future. Skeen moulds the track with patience, making the finale even more cutting. When she uses her voice, her body becomes a personalized vessel in which she absorbs, processes, understands, and responds. Her voice has been manipulated and stretched in order to seek out a deeper interpretation to a host of complex issues and colorless situations, and the result is an eerie, elevated recording in which everything is entangled and nothing is separated; it’s the six degrees of separation in musical form.
As Skeen says, her own body becomes the original playback mechanism, experiencing a finite world through the infinite zones and possibilities of music. The music is her own parallel array, her subjective reality, through which she can make sense of a senseless world. She digests the outer world by burying her voice in the limitless cartography of music, while the album’s feelings of dread are as inescapable as the advancing of time, its grains endlessly leaking away and provoking symptoms of permanent anxiety.