Let The Evil Of His Own Lips Cover Him by Lingua IgnotaRelease date: February 14, 2017
She wore a white gown reminiscent of how you’d imagine the fates dress in a Greek tragedy as they render terrible judgement on some poor ragged mortal. Or maybe it was to look like a virgin ready for ultimate sacrifice to a violent republican god. The green lighting of the venue added a morbid element, giving her the coincident air of a ghost-girl from an Asian horror flick. Her mic, mic stand and keyboard were all painted white. There were colorless images of burning buildings behind her.
I was at Saint Vitus to do an interview with The Body. They were playing a show that night and I figured I’d check out the opening acts. While all were excellent as you’d expect, Lingua Ignota stole the show. She was alone on the stage, just her, a laptop and, a keyboard…
There are some singers out there where nature is all the kindness they need. Patti Smith comes to mind. That was all nature. No nurture. Others have years of training to become great. Or not. But then there are those that have something special to begin with and still train for years, turning their voices into the most profound instrument. That’s what I was hearing. She could annoy my fellow metal bros. with airy operatic falsetto and just as easily terrify them with a mad fury. And when her voice was almost inert, at her most hushed and delicate, there were the words – an assault of spite and judgment, boring into our hearts like the cold disapproval of a catholic mother.
Lingua Ignota is the alter ego of Kristin Hayter, a Rhose Island based musician who spent her younger years training in classical music. As she describes it, her show takes the tradition of performing hysterical femininity often seen in opera and turning that stuff on its head. She becomes an ambiguous narrator who is both aggressor and victim, engaging misogyny head-on, and doing so within a medium that is both classical and extreme music. The intended result is disorientation and discomfort. And it works. It’s a bit theatrical, but it is not contrived. This music is born in the fear, shame, confusion, anger and ultimately strength and empowerment that comes with facing and then overcoming something terrible. It is deeply personal and to listen to it is to suffer with her.
She self-released a five song EP in a rather stealthy manner last month, almost as if hoping no one would notice. It is excellent and will most likely be on my top 10 list for 2017.
Here’s what you are in for: church organs play and an angelic voice proclaims “I am the disease of man. I am the wasp elite.” The song is a powerful declaration of male rule in all things awful and destructive. Over the course of the song this declaration gives way to the last interview of a condemned female serial killer (Aileen Wuornos) as if to say, “Here is my evidence. Look at what I’ve created. Look at how I’ve destroyed this poor woman. Look at what I’ve turned her into.”
It gets worse.
In ‘Suffer Forever’ our narrator has transformed into a religious icon, a virginal Mary on a cross, guilting you into submission, declaring that she will suffer forever unless obeyed. But she will possess you. She’ll and eat your world. And you should bend over and take it like a man.
The most powerful song on the record is ‘That He May Not Rise Again’. Here the distinction between the fictional narrator and the real person becomes blurred to the point of meaninglessness. The song begins with a recording of a real-life abusive boyfriend prattling on about how he never meant to hurt anyone and how things will be all right. Then paralysis. Seizure. Debilitation. Nothing is all right. Nothing will ever be all right. A saintly voice eventually dispels the noise before the song takes its final form. Low brutal pulses like bombs dropping are overlaid by harsh washes, roars of far-away monsters, and Kristin, at her most violent, pleads/demands to god for delivery from the violent man. The song ends in hopeless despair. For, there is no god, and the fiction she pleads to is the image of man itself.
Every song is like this, tortured, deeply personal, essentially about men, the terrible things they do to women. They are sad and haunting, but also heart wrenchingly beautiful and intimate. She hides nothing. And there-in is the appeal. Despite any nod to classical convention or showmanship there is deep honesty to the record that gives a listener a basis for appreciation even if the listener has not had shared experiences -even if the listener is a man.
She will be doing some shows in the northeastern US over spring, including the Ende Tymes noise and experimental music festival in Brookline in April, and most likely do a West Coast US tour with The Body in June. If you happen to be in those areas, it would be worth your while to check out her show.