IVIC by Saele ValeseRelease date: February 5, 2021
“It was impossible to take at one gulp the realisation that in the mind of this trim modern creature he had known in completest intimacy, there was a whole great area he had never dreamed of.” – Fritz Leiber
First off, an apology: I’m mighty sorry that this has taken such a long time to draw from my stone-filled veins. Saele Valese’s record deserves high praises to have been sung about it long before its release date yet here I am, many months later, having finally shaped some sentences which, hopefully, do it a little justice.
IVIC is for the dance floor left festering inside of our minds. A fading memory of a past that corrodes and warps with each lost second. A memory that recalls VWs reversing in arcs through grey carparks dappled by early morning sun. It’s the fragility of an urban life waking to a muddy morning. Misplaced. Displaced. Seeking familiarity and reassurance. It’s a night in reverse. A heartbeat fluttered by the unknown. The occasional stomach drop of anxiety. Teeth chattering with trepidation on the train home. It’s longing for inconspicuousness. A dream of merging with the landscape, of fading into the background. It takes us on an arcing journey, leaving us dawdling at the gates where we first dared to knock.
Opening double hitter ‘In Your Rosary’, is divvied up into two tight trips of menacing kicks and uncertain drone washes. Like wiping the night from your eyes as dawn first tip-toes over the horizon. Part one features the creaked sounds of a deep sewer. Someone hiding, holding their breath. A heartbeat palpitating as a hiding spot nears discovery. Part two retains the steady punch of the kick drum which, when combined with deep swipes and ticking hi-hats, is gently reminiscent of ‘Found Land’ from Vaquez’s Winter’s City*. Insistent bass thumps, spacious clicks, whirrs, and footsteps. A sound built up brick by brick, piece by piece, to form something dense and voluminous. Hi-hat taps colliding off and on. Yawning notes rolled in on a volume pot. A punched kick akin to toe-punting a football wedged against a wall. Eerie atmospheric conversations slide out of view, override, interrupt and talk over one another. The sewer has been flushed clear. Anxieties washed away. The riding sustain feels cleansing and vast.
There is a tragic bent to these Raime-like sonic undulations. Like the rolling of hills carved from compacted sustain, they delve into valleys of undeniable burden. Two major reference points are the photographer Francesca Woodman (from whom the track title ‘You Cannot See Me From Where I Look At Myself’ is pilfered.) and the writer Sylvia Plath. The latter of which hardly requires an introduction whilst the former’s name ought to live on more lips. Woodman used long exposures to distort and blur portraits. She held her gaze for longer and longer, letting more in. It might end up obscuring the details but, then again, it might reveal a little more too. Her work blurred identity, it coalesced person with place. There’s a requirement to dig into the image to find meaning. Perhaps a meaning that can never be conveyed. Woodman knew this. Our understanding of each other is hindered by our perspective (or lack thereof). Or, as Nan Shepherd once wrote: “Knowing another is endless. The thing to be known grows with the knowing.” Francesca Woodman took her own life at the age of 22.
These touchstones at the centre of Valese’s record imbue the notes, compositions, and intent with a darker heft. The sounds loom louder. The cavern they echo through seems colder and filled with darting shadows. With the arrival of ‘Horses The Colour Of Rust’ we move out of the grey and dismal supermarket carpark, beyond the JK Flesh-esque, burning tower-block, come down electronics, into a much fiercer, demented affair.
The theme of blurred objects continues on here with this section named from a line in Plath’s poem, Sheep In The Fog. It’s all frenzied and fizzing synths. Raw at the edges and surging with intent. Screeching metal is spliced into a tumbling rhythm hooking shoulders and necks into the ancient throb. Dub rhythms with bright claps reverberate out into space. Sub-frequencies are used brutally but sparingly. Pressure and power pushing into the void, claiming the expanse. Colouring it.
It’s a purposeful shift into rousing rhythmic revolutions. Gyrating bass writhes against distorted beats that fuzz and crackle. Sounds become clouded & misfire, shrouded in fog. Rampant drones expand like charged & pulsing electric fences that reach up to the sky before transforming into a low-end cruiser with the beat of a drum. The thick reverberations wallop and wallow in the darkening recesses of basement nights. The arc that IVIC moves along takes us from head to heart to gut and back again.
The final Plath-piece (although penultimate track overall) is a hip-hop instrumental crying out for a rat-a-tat delivery over its low-end rumbles, crisp drums and squalling alien electronics. That collab is still yet to come, alas, and the album veers sharply back into earth-juddering drone exploration for closer ‘Kept In The Night By The Light Of The Moon’. The curve back to the beginning now complete.
Without egocentrically inserting myself into this review anymore than I already have, suffice to say, the reason that this took so long is that it’s been a busy clump of months. Overwhelmingly so. Fortunately IVIC has proven both a worrying echo and a soothing accomplice to that time frame. It has unsettled and reassured in equal amounts. It has helped me to sink quietly into a space and regroup.
* Full disclosure – this is unforgivable, shameless self promotion. Please direct all fury towards the author of this piece.