Alina Kalancea | The 5th Apple
My first impression of Romanian sound artist Alina Kalancea is a double-take. Partly because every image of her visage on the web is partly obscured, even her own site appearing somewhat faceless – but most of all because her sound is more like the essence of perfume than anything else. Though she’s been at it for years this is her debut album. The eight pieces (an additional hour plus work is available in the full set) presented on The 5th Apple are atomized like fine molecules bursting in mid air. It runs the gamut from high drama to densely woven drones disappearing into a void. And this coming from someone who is quite discerning on how the human voice is incorporated into modern music, especially when it is spoken word.
TONE + DRONE: Kalancea speaks of isolation and emotions, of minimalism and the body, speaking in English with a rich accent in a vaguely confrontational tone. The structure upon entry (Imbalance) is simple with only light analogue synths, some moderated bleeps and bloops and a reverbed vocal – it’s effective and a bit of an instruction manual of sorts. On the title track, out from the recesses comes a cosmic modulation bathed in heady drone. Growing into billows of near static there’s something quite mesmerizing about the gait here, almost the soundtrack of a man on death row taking his final steps, heavy yet more reflective than dispirited. Subtle dripping….She’s now nabbed my restraint.
The proceedings are quite poetic, even in its warnings: “If you are trying to get free, don’t move too much, you will end up like an insect in a toxic spider’s cobweb in the balance.” And there are nuggets of wisdom and fear scattered throughout, never becoming too dark, just looming like subtle reminders that human nature has become volatile. In Fears Kalancea conjures a dreamscape of layers: deep drones, bright bell tones and an infusion of raw industrial striations. Together these effects form a protective blanket that surrounds the listener from any outside forces, but all is still visible just outside this thin barrier.
The overall atmosphere dances between a contemporary take on themes found in classical baroque, shaded ambient and the fallout of civilization. This is most evocative on Poisonous Girl where the singer’s voice whispers in song that then swirls into cloak-in-dagger echoes. The vocal is haunting, exquisite – only further emphasized by the crackle of fire…or is it rain? Credit for this mesmerizing work must also go to collaborators: Alex Gámez (Asférico), Julia Kent and Raven Bush who have truly done an outstanding job permeating the dynamics of this record.
The 5th Apple rides this incredibly thin line between introspection and bold statement. The ambient textures are hypnotic (Behind The Curtains, Limbo), and the albums’ themes are acutely embellished with a swelling conceptual prowess. Elongated chords dip into a chasm of the unknown, and if you are paying attention, the sacred fruit will be all yours. In the meantime, the elusive, snakelike rasp of Devil’s Lullaby is a drawn-out apt conclusion to an unexpected, atmospheric sleeper.
Get this record…like now.