Dolphin Midwives | Liminal Garden
Beacon Sound (LP)
The new record from singer/harpist Dolphin Midwives (Sage Fisher) arrives on Portland’s imprint Beacon Sound this Friday. Liminal Garden straddles psychedelic etherealism like the futuristic leftfield side of Björk yet untapped. The record is infused with Asian stringed melodies and electronic effect abstractions – all deeply steeped in sweet (dare I say) effeminate rhythm and the unexpected. After all its premise is so topical as the artist explains: “This album is about change, about finding beauty and acceptance in the fractured, broken and vulnerable places. It’s about integration, of all of my selves, of the natural world and technology, of all of the brokenness and imperfection and insecurity and fragility of being femme in a patriarchal society.”
The proceedings open with Grass Grow, an celestial piece in which Fisher’s layered, airy voice is treated, elongated, drifting. With translucent drones the vocal is sampled, doubled and edited in the most lovely, nonsensical manner, the result dances on light. A stellar blend of microsound and broken emotion. An exciting opener that baits your ears. The dazzling kaleidoscope of colors coming from the harp on Jungespell is both mesmerizing and playing on traditional Japanese themes. Noting the mastering by Rafael Anton Irisarri is important as his own work is as intimate and tingling to the senses. Similar chords spill effortlessly into the next track, Castleshell, yet are unwound, reversed and otherwise manipulated, still retaining abstract threads that lead back to the melody until the two-minute short Flux breaks the tension with a choppy, low flying industrial soft motorized drill.
Once you flip the vinyl you are into some ambient territory, as mixed by Pye Corner Audio on the sumptious Mirror. An angelic nearly hummed vocal perfumes the breeze and is manipulated into a staccato mix along the way. Fisher’s voice is majestically heartbreaking, filled with light and sorrow. After such a peaceful and balanced piece comes the odious Labyrinth I which shifts the atmosphere back to a previous fluttering aftermath oozing with fluttering anxiety. The very next track, TEMPLE V, may have likely been a better, more centering follower, in that its dark chamber of echoes chime with an uncertain, endless clang and drip effect. Fused with spellbinding toy-like sounds, it plays on the dark/light sides of the subconscious.
As we near the end, the simple strum on Satya Yuga (which is a goddess in the form of a cow) seems a bit sluggish at first, and opens into an intent, inquisitive round of sinewy plucking. It makes me consider the imagined space where liquid and solid meet, in dazzling transference. Until the closer Iridesce there aren’t too many out-of-spacey sounds, but this goes out with assorted cosmic bleeps and bloops, like Dolphin Midwives‘ skidding voice has been encapsulated inside variegated, separating molecules hovering into the skies. Liminal Garden leaves the ear with peaks and jolts of imagination throughout, it is an exhilarating tension tamer and breaker.
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