MAAT | The Next
Pacific City Sound Visions (LP/DL)
MAAT is an archival nugget from the early 90s, a solo project by Hamburg artist Dörte Marth (Xyramat) – and what a strange delight it is. On wax, this’ll be limited to a total of 280 copies (on Bandcamp it lists as only 100), so if you dig real surprises from the past, that sound like something from the future, I urge you to check this platter out for reasons beyond my understanding – but I’ll try and make a case. That is aside from the fact that she recorded Hunde I, a striking tape with Asmus Tietchens back in ’03 for a label called Wachsender Prozess.
The peculiar setting on Krypt opens instantly, and the listener is drawn into a world of fluttering effects that push and pull. It caresses your ears though in a seductive way that lures you with a keen sense of the unknown. Here belies a mysterious place, full of secrets to unlock over these dozen tracks. I’m reminded of Laurie Anderson in some of the deployed sounds, pings and whispers. There is simply no rush on She, with its off-key plucking strings, repeating pong-like synth and bristling percussion. A mystical sage invites you deeper into a hallowed place peppered with tribal touches and off-beat, melodic jazzy spirit.
Each track is unique here, true short vignettes ranging from under two to about seven minutes each. Many instruments are presented, upright bass, horns, and various percussion, among effects that play with water and traditional Asian strings. This is all bathed in a light that shifts from bright to dark throughout, and is all couched in dynamic, intermittent vocals that infuse humming and a sweet shimmer. There is no refrain, no chorus, just a voice that plays well with a host of analogue and synthetic effects. On Duster we experience what may later become known as dark ambient, and there is plenty of room for pause in the steamy dragon breath and tom toms here.
This will most definitely appeal to fans of Legendary Pink Dots, Coil, Chris & Cosey and the whole wide world of edgy experimenters who dared dip into voice as a sometimes central emotive element. Though I am also reminded of the lesser known Opus 3 and to some degree the original line-up of the Sneaker Pimps – with all the techno pop proclivities extricated. But what I’m really hearing is the pang of urgency and woe in the vocal.
The gauge shifts into a denser blend of incantation and industrial warble on Tudelo. Breath and physical drag, and the spaces in between begin to create an operative flow that serves as a dramatic foil to the otherwise suspenseful playfulness. Beyond the coarse edges of Vopice – that whirls around and around lay the gem-like electronics of Kurz Davor. It’s a bit undefined in a slowed spectrum, in limbo. Perhaps the lead-up to an unexpected finale on the title track. An icy cyclical set of metallurgic effects and embedded voice, just under the skin of the surface, create a peculiar eerie end.
PS: Maat was also an Egyptian goddess.