Speechless by ResinaRelease date: November 19, 2021
Label: Fat Cat
If you’ve had the pleasure of listening to the music of Resina (Karolina Rec), you will likely be aware of the cinematic nature of her recordings. Primarily equipped with a cello, she thickens out her sound with a variety of sparky electronics, cascading percussion, and, on Speechless, the addition of the 23-strong 441Hz Choir alongside her own deft vocals. Whilst these might be typical components in a film-scoring orchestra, what is it about these pieces that give them the sense of a soundtrack over, say, the neo-classical stylings of Erased Tapes luminaries?
Conflict. That seems to be the key to Resina’s work. Conflict is suggestive of narrative. And conflict is ingrained in the marrow of her compositions. From gentle ambience to a cacophony that sounds like all out warfare, Speechless runs the whole musical gamut, telling a shrouded tale for us to unravel as it goes.
War is on Rec’s tongue from the off. Tonal shifts that seem inspired by the sounds of distant battle horns arise on ‘Mercury Immersion’, sounding a threat. And there do seem to be threats lurking on the fringes of Speechless. A sense of disquiet. Unease. Breathy huffs appear amidst sustained strings, shrieked cello, and tinkling chimes. The source of the menace is not clear, just something prowling out of sight. Something in the trees.
Following this is the fizzing, clanking work of ‘Horse Tail’, a track that is suggestive of medieval battle preparation. Panicked staccato strings signal a warning. Chugging voices clamber over the top and bolshy percussion accentuates the paranoia – turns it into rage. Industrial mechanical ruts are then swarmed, anachronistically, by the ringing of notes like air raid sirens.
Even a piece like ‘Darwin’s Finches’ seems to drip with doubt as it drives from sonic avian reproduction into a mechanical, distorted replica. Its lies exposed. What is to be trusted? The chirps turn to screams before being drowned out by a belligerent rasping drone. Then, on ‘Unveiling’, scythe-like bowing screeches back and forth like an early form of chapped machinery. It sounds basic, primitive, formed from stone and moss. Then it pistons into life in thick, rich, buttressed tones. Wordless voices wonder at this evolution of industrial proportions.
Of course Resina is no stranger to soundtracks. Not only has she performed live scores of films as diverse as Candyman and Carl Theodor Dryer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc but she also wrote and recorded the soundtrack for cult video game Vampire: The Masquerade – Shadows of New York. Her music succinctly paints detailed pictures for films emerging in the minds of its listeners. It’s an extraordinary skill to plant images via sound waves. I wonder if the images intended are the images received?
‘A Crooked God’ follows the concise panic, discombobulation, and upset of ‘Hajstra’. Its title reminiscent of Aleksei German’s scathing diatribe Hard To Be A God. A film that skulks in the muck of human abomination. Slack strings are struck, mimicking the act of chain-tugging or, perhaps, far off marching. A propulsive rhythm kicks in with such bombast that you might expect a chugging metal guitar to accompany it. This wouldn’t be out of place alongside cinematography of Valhalla Rising.
In contrast, ’Manic’ starts life relatively calmly. Different orchestral voices repeat their mantras, vying for attention. Our ears latch on to the most recent addition. Others fall by the wayside. A cloud of marauding distortion rears up at the horizon whilst an unnervingly jaunty set of violins proceed to jig about in front of the danger. Treated electronics are tossed into the tumult. This could be the discord menacingly roaming the margins. It seems near. Advancing through the forests. Only to vanish just as it crests the hills at sundown.
Adding a full body to this notion of an imagined film score, ‘Failed Myth Simulation’ takes a different tack. Almost languid to start, its bucolic calm is slowly replaced with jittery electronics and barrelling drums. Another act of arming the troops. Steeling oneself for what is to come. Individually, the tracks speak of resilience but, linked together, the picture becomes increasingly afraid. Mistrustful even. Perhaps this is to do with the increasingly divided landscape that Rec’s native Poland is facing – Speechless was created in the midst of the Women’s Strike protests that were a direct response to the archaic and cruel abortion laws enacted by their increasingly puritanical government. Or maybe it’s a response to the global pandemic that you may have heard about. Or perhaps even the teetering of humankind on the precipice of a climate disaster that will render our only planet uninhabitable. Perhaps all of the above have contributed to the sense of impending hostilities that fizzes at the heart of this album.
For the finale, chopped and sampled voices soar in a tongueless universal language. The call are tentative like a form of upset is in the air. Like unsettled birds firing out a warning. The fear is contagious; spreads like wildfire.
Speechless inhabits a similar world to her previous full-length Traces but grittier, more confrontational, and more singular in its approach. Whilst a resolution to the conflicts threaded throughout the record seem unlikely for the time being, that someone is fashioning music of this calibre in a response to these injustices is of great comfort. Resina might feel speechless but we hear her loud and clear.