In the early 80s, performance artist Anna Homler crossed paths with avant-garde composer Steve Moshier, and this collaboration was the result. Moshier took recordings of Homler’s wordless vocalizations and conceived other parts to accompany them, sometimes percussive, sometimes droning and ambient, always fitting with whatever she did. Some of the pieces, like “Ee Chê,”feature rhythmic chanting of invented syllables that sound as if they might be words in some unknown language; others, such as
the lengthy “Sirens,” consist of swoops, groans, crackles and other “non-musical” vocal noises. Moshier pairs themsympathetically, with “Ee Chê” presenting processed percussion with a relentless beat, and “Sirens” consisting of long synthesizer tones fading in and out. Each of the tracks has its own identity and sound. When it comes to abstract vocalizing (or whatever term you choose to cover Homler’s type of singing), there is a great danger of creating sounds that are very harsh and likely to repel many listeners (I’m thinking of performers like Diamanda Galás), and while Breadwoman is not for everyone, Homler never
comes off as abrasive. This music represents a middle point in performance art music – not as poppish as most of Laurie Anderson’s work (and certainly more abstract, given the lack of words), not as difficult as Galás. As such, it works admirably as its own thing, a creative vision of an alternative way of creating music outside the conventions of typical songcraft. And it’s also a rather enjoyable listen.
ALBUM REVIEW: ANNA HOMLER / STEVE MOSHIER – BREADWOMAN &
OTHER TALES by Will Pearson
Brooklyn label RVNG continues its program of idiosyncratic and avant-garde releases with this reissue of
Anna Homler and Steve Moshier’s 1985 foray into imagined myth, invented language and ambient
electronica. Even by RVNG’s standards, Breadwoman and Other Tales is weird. This music sounds not just
like it’s been unearthed from another time, but from outside of time altogether.
Homler (a performance artist) met Moshier (an avant-garde musician) in L.A.’s underground gallery culture in the early ’80s. She had already developed the character of Breadwoman, “a woman so old she’s turned to bread,” and a form of extra-linguistic incantation and chant that she’d been recording onto cassette. She gave the cassettes to Moshier, who composed ambient soundscapes to accompany them using 2-track and 4-track tape recorders, synths, effects and a sequencer.
The result is a record that feels meaningful despite its nonsensical language, which doesn’t sound dated in the least, neither sonically nor stylistically. “Oo Nu Dah” is an early highlight, and finds Moshier looping and multi-tracking Homler’s voice into Reich-like echoes that produce unnerving harmonies. “Sirens” is a terrifying excursion into the primordial, with Homler delivering inhuman squeaks, squeals and groans that evoke both birth and death.
If you’re looking for a record to give your bohemian wine tasting an air of inscrutable sophistication, this record will do the trick, but it’s better than that; it demands and deserves a quiet concentration in order for its transcendental ambitions to flourish. (RVNG Intl.)