Lucrecia Dalt – Syzygy – CD / LP / Digital
LP - €14.00
CD - €10.00
Digital - €6.00
I: An Invitation to Divide
Syzygy begins with a simple provocation enough: »Are you in a hurry?« But if Lucrecia Dalt intends to provoke, then her invitation leads to a radically unexpected denouement. For Dalt does, indeed, lead us. But where she leads us is to a kind of Ursprung of beautiful distress. Syzygy is a notion which Dalt poetically amplifies by giving emotional depth to the astrophysical concept of a point of conjunction and opposition. No place is this, and no whole thing can exist here. In contrast to her contemporaries, Dalt's second opus sees her become more the Charon than the chanteuse, reminding us that complicatedness, dialectic, and radical alterity are what really forged the axle of creation. For Dalt, Syzygy is a state of eternal oscillation that effervesces from the sand and levitates like a mirage.
Syzygy is also an aftermath (maybe the scene following the ineluctable march of the cloud of dust that loomed on the cover of last year's Commotus) an infernal aporia filled with syntactic ambiguity and indeterminable potential. And Syzygy, indeed, plays up that previous album's game of getting you right on Dalt's level; of having to learn her aesthetic language before you can even ask what's her statement. But unlike Commotus, which required you to adjust your eyes to subtle contrasts of scale and temporality in order to wink at the portentousness of it all, Syzygy strikes quickly, like an arrow shot into the night of Dalt's perceptual domain.
II: The Devil's Staircase
Every sound on Syzygy is a trace in darkness. Dalt has refined her palette with microscopic acuity, made it glimmer with hidden tension and uncertainty, and layered it with bristling moments of surrealism and tragicomic suspense. The sounds of Syzygy cling so closely to their ideologic roots that it could well be the quintessential thought-forms album: Rapid-pulse arpeggios fluttering on the edge between beautiful texture and unhinged counterpoint. Deep, compelling drones flowing onward like a slow river through candlelight. Unbearably sharp prickles and ungrounded loops springing up like uncertain stars, or sparks not yet to fuse into higher being. It's hard not to make a comparison to the zoo of elementary particles, or a space age sound library; Except the album advances forward with such inexorable cohesiveness that its brevity comes as the most electric shock of all.
In this time, Syzygy treats the listener to an intense – almost Webernian – series of micro-climaxes that ratchet you up a devil's staircase. You climb through tension after tension, before falling deep into drone and/or punch-drunk reverie. And the point of entry is just as jagged: After the relatively sanguine trip of Glossolalia – with its theme of senseless language and un-becoming serving as an oddly beguiling welcome – we are dropped straight into the density of Inframince, a bass-on-bass counterpoint of oscillator and 808 with vocals skipping randomly between Spanish, Catalan and English. This striking piece is, in fact, a setting of Duchamp's notion of our most undefined moments, like the airspace between two bodies locked in embrace, the warmth remaining in a chair when the sitter has long vanished, or the unthinkably thin region between a levitating mirage and the ground. After Inframince's mounting climax, in which Dalt splits herself quite literally in three, so that she can ricochet around the stereo field like a deleterious phantom, we are left with nowhere to go but the weary pastorale of sepia-toned finger-plucking, drifting Kubrick-like in deoxygenated space.
The move is repeated with Vitti. Syzygy's fractured heart beats here at 600bpm, an arpeggiated dervish that simply has nowhere to rest. Dalt's would-be wail is squelched by some kind of tornado leaving her voice crushed and hushed, tonally and ideologically rootless, and finally, provoked to some catatonic tropical reverie. And again, we are put back down deep, in a track ironically titled Levedad, which perfectly expresses Calvino's paradoxical celebration of lightness in the face of inconsolable weight..... Syzygy continues in this pattern to its conclusion. But let's leave it to you to follow on your own.
III: The Lightness of Weight
The fact that Dalt demands such a thorough transformation of your sense of time and texture in just 32 minutes is a testament to her burgeoning production skills, as much as to the edgy Barcelona twilight in which the album was composed. For two months straight, Dalt worked alone in a restless flat, with little measure of time or sleep, suspended, as she was, in the magnetic field of the Barcelona Metro. (The magnetic field was so strong her electric bass would produce little more than intense buzzing; one practical reason for Syzygy's stylistic switch to synthesiser drones and anxiety-fraught arpeggios.) In this claustrophobia, she filled her endless twilight with the company of 20th century ghosts. Classics by Clouzot, Godard, Antonioni and Bergman ran straight through the production process. Dalt would allow the film's sudden changes of mood and tempo to push her music in new directions, as if these cinematic moments were simply stems in the mix.
But for this reason, Syzygy still advances by means of surprise and aesthetic delight. A purely abstract musical framing of her subject might result in a difficult listen, whereas Dalt offers up whirring, purring, squealing, episodic timbres that are fundamentally filmic.
It is, in fact, Syzygy's compressed format that belies the album's multidimensionality; its fabric of conjunction/opposition invades the narrow space between medium and signification. The lyric sheet is populated (or de-populated, destabilized) by seemingly incongruous quotations and scrambled notations: Sudden changes of language. Distorted re-arrangements of Benjamin's powerful critique of alienation. Peter J. Carroll's politicized defense of schizophrenia. Calvino's touching defense of happiness. A line from a Spanish government email confirming Dalt's change of citizenship.
This gives the listener not just a read-along to the vocal tracks, but a hidden textual dimension which covers the album's somewhat cryptic packaging. This conjunction/opposition is what makes Dalt's second opus its own kind of masterpiece, realized as it is, not in the listening space in which the music is consumed, but in some archetypal dimension.
An inferno in which Dalt's Syzygy is eternally occurring.