Barmy and quite brilliant new album from Mira Calix, that cuts thru a ruff clutter of abstract ideas and wildly disparate elements with a digital hotknife, collaging elements from avant garde experimental music, rap, footwork, opera, industrial and dubstep. Somehow the result is coherent and utterly compelling – perhaps her best album yet.
It’s easy to forget that Durban-born Chantal Passamonte was the first woman signed to the Warp label, and she’s been hard at work doing her own thing since 1996’s still-underrated “Ilanga” 12″. She’s managed to completely avoid classification too, working with experimental electronics and mutant dance forms initially, over the years she’s made the transition into installation and theatre work without sacrificing the uniqueness of her voice. So “a̵b̵s̵e̵n̵t̵ origin” follows these decades of invention and reinvention, and is influenced by feminist artist Hannah Wilke’s collage works.
Passamonte compares her studio process to a Scandi-noir detective’s office as she assembles her inspirations and influences. Each track on the album is formed using a different collage process that reflects the output of a different visual artist, and yet somehow Passamonte manages to find a connection between each one, assembling a cast of 17 tracks that form a complex narrative.
There’s a confident, theatrical quality to “a̵b̵s̵e̵n̵t̵ origin” that feels risky and modern. Passamonte has experience working with theater – she composed for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2017 – and her stark, recognizable sound has never felt more lavishly displayed. It’s a challenging, rewarding and bold work that grabs influence from throughout the artistic spectrum without cynicism or polite restraint – a rare thing.