After the 10-year anniversary of Sonic Pieces in Berlin last year, label boss Monique Recknagel personally chose three duos from the label’s impressive roster to perform live together. Monique was so taken aback by the performance of electronic composer Jasmine Guffond and Deaf Center’s Erik K Skodvin that she commissioned a full-length record. Six months later, Guffond and Skodvin teamed up to produce The Burrow. The two musicians headed to Berlin’s VOX-TON studio, where they recorded for two days and were joined by Finnish musician Merja Kokkonen, who provided a haunting set of vocals. Guffond used her laptop and a cymbal, while Skodvin utilised piano, feedback, farfisa organ, and percussion.
“The Burrow” is an unfinished short story, written by Franz Kafka around six months before his death in 1924. Published posthumously in 1931, “The Burrow” is centred around a small creature who hastily builds a burrow in an attempt to protect itself against perceived attacks. Concentrating on a fear of the outside world and the prevalence of anxiety, it’s easy to see why The Burrow is so relevant; fear and isolation have been amplified in 2020, and to astonishing degrees. Each track on The Burrow is named after an animal which is either extinct or on the brink of extinction, further highlighting fragility and mortality. The music feels like it’s on an endangered list, too. The haunting, wordless vocals either scream or seem to be disturbed, crying out in anguish over the state of the world and its continued erosion. Kokkonen’s vocals slither through an electronic cavern while rumbling, billowing drones are left at the entrance.
Be it mourning or rage, the murmurs and screeches are the only way to articulate and respond to the horrors; forget the need for distinct and articulated lyrics or their poetic meanings, because the vocals here are able to hit harder than any other word in any other language. Electronic echoes and a dark piano add to the feeling that this particular burrow has been designed to feel more like a small, claustrophobic cave, its resounding patterns deflecting off dark walls and tunnelling ever further inwards. The constant clang of cymbals on ‘White Eyes’ reinforces a nervous, distressed mind, but much like the sound of a rattlesnake, it becomes a warning for the uninvited to stay away, deepening its reclusive nature; it could almost be under lockdown.