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CRWTH (Chorus Redux) was composed by ambient guitar pioneer Scott Cortez. Cortez directed a mass of female vocal tracks (sung by vocalist Melissa Arpin-Duimstra), recorded on analog tape. Cortez then delicately filtered and gently shaped all vocal parts with vintage analog electronics before transferring all components to the digital domain for final sonic treatment. This meditative and process-oriented method required several years to complete, and the results are wholly satisfying to the ears. CRWTH (Chorus Redux) is a deeply layered and sensual listening experience. It is perfect for extended headphone trips, small listening parties, or solo, stereo-turned-up-to-11 immersion. CRWTH (Chorus Redux) brings to mind 20th Century avant-garde composers like Gyorgy Ligeti, and Arvo Part - while modern electronic artists like Main and Seefeel also count as influences. However, Cortez' individual compositional style and subtle craft place CRWTH (Chorus Redux) on its own forward-dreaming trajectory.
Asked by Richard Charier to create something special for LINE, the concept behind CRWTH (Chorus Redux) was to abstract even further upon an abstraction. CRWTH (Chorus Redux) is a completely re-edited take on the material, not merely a remix album, but an alternate version of Chorus.
The cd contains a special coupon for a free download of Chorus + 3, the full original 14-track Chorus release plus 3 additional new reworks.
As expected from its development, the sound of Crwth is one that is more treated and distilled than its Chorus predecessor which, thankfully, is included as a free download, along with three additional reworked tracks that wouldn’t fit on the disc. The original material is closer in spirit to the band’s earlier work, though still full of cut and paste phonemes and what must be vocal snippets run through guitar effects pedals. While sounding very unlike their peers, there are still significant traces of a sound influenced by the likes of MBV, just with even less consideration for the conventional structures of pop music.
The new material allows Melissa’s natural voice to shine through at times, but the greater focus is on dismantling the syllables and breaths she provides into a variety of sounds, some which mimic traditional instruments, others which have no discernable origin. The opening "Dzai" leaves her gentle vocals out in the open, with little in the way of processing other than layering, which later surges into a sustained tone, with small phonemes morphing into a rhythmic click while others are processed into cello like low register swells of sound. "Vrhhu" allows the beautiful vocals to appear untreated, resembling a gentle, wordless lullaby as other bits of her voice are done up to sound like strings, providing a soft, gauzy bed for her angelic voice to rest upon. "Rhvr" also chooses to showcase the voice, with only the most subtle of reverberation and processed sonic punctuation to flesh out the sound.
In other cases, the voice is used simply as a starting point, and the outcome resembles something else entirely: "Glnkq" sounds much more like a complex synthesizer or laptop based composition, with its looped low frequency rhythmic pulse and shimmering pseudo-horn passages, and the cold minimalism of "Qlinglo," which channels distant strings and indefinable bassy frequencies. Even with little resemblance to its source material, few things other than the human voice can be capable of rendering such loneliness and despair that is captured on "Shemerr." While the palette that the sound is drawn from isn’t clear, the heavy emotions it conveys are rarely captured by anything other than the human voice.
When I first saw this listed on the upcoming release list from Line, I was a bit shocked. I knew the name sounded familiar, and a quick bit of research confirmed my instinct that Lovesliescrushing was a band associated more with the 1990s ethereal pop/gothic movement than anything else. Hell, they had releases on the Projekt label, definitely not something I would have seen as fitting in with this label’s preference for clinical and installation based compositions. However, the material here does fit in with the Line ethos, it just happens to have more of an organic core than many, such as myself, were expecting. The final product is a simply beautiful set of pieces that is consistent with the explorations in sound motive of electronic artists, but with a natural beauty and grace that few are able to mimic with their laptops and complex software. -Creaig Dunton
Barbershop is a well-known, though hopelessly kitsch and minimally enjoyable, example, but the art has also been adopted into genres like hip hop, where rappers may be supported by beat boxers alone, and pop (Björk’s 2004 album Medúlla, consisting nearly entirely of voice samples, is a prime example). In avant-garde, the approach is neither new, yet there especially the possibilities are manifold, since the end result need not sound, by any traditional sense of the word, musical. At one end of the spectrum we find a compilation such as Mouth Noise, released through XV Parówek’s label XVP in 2008, for which artists used the mouth alone to construct deafening noise bursts. At the other end, we find Lovesliescrushing’s CRWTH (Chorus Redux).
Back in 2007 Lovesliescrushing, an ambient/shoegaze outfit hailing from Tucson, Arizona, released their album Chorus through Peruvian label Automatic Entertainment. Chorus , as the name already seems to imply somewhat, was constructed entirely of voice samples, which Scott Cortez – also of the decidedly noisier shoegaze outfit Astrobrite – spliced at the phoneme level, after which the phonemes were reworked, treated, looped, layered to create entirely new compositions in which the voice became a stream of sound your ears couldn’t decipher as speech, or in which you couldn’t even recognize specific phonemes, a stream of unrecognizable, ethereal vowels framed and portioned by as unrecognizable consonantal clicks.
CRWTH (Chorus Redux) is a reworking of the criminally limited Chorus (which was released in an edition of 500, as is CRWTH, by the way), and the goal of the reworking was, as per the (spot-on, I have to say) liner notes, “to abstract even further upon an abstraction”. And indeed, Cortez, deconstructing and reconstructing meticulously voice samples from band mate Melissa Aprin-Duimstra and himself, seems to have succeeded at that very well – and, in the process, has created a redux album that easily outshines the original. Whoever is familiar with the original Chorus knows that that album was filled to the brim with layers of voice piled upon another to create a particularly shoegazy type of ambient, certainly beautiful but also confrontational, in a sense – ambient crashing into you with full force, sooner bringing to mind the ethereally noisy aesthetics of My Bloody Valentine than the soft-spoken dreaminess of Loscil.
CRWTH is a decidedly more soft-spoken album, though; silent, calm, precious. The walls of voice as they were found on Chorus are a thing of the past, and instead we find hushed compositions, sometimes bordering on the inaudible, pushing slowly forward and working toward no particular climax, instead staying subdued and intangible. It seems to betray some influence of Richard Chartier, who commissioned CRWTH; Chartier’s works, of course, are probably the prime example of ambient music’s effective use of silence. That hushed quality, exactly, is what makes CRWTH so beautiful – whereas its mother album was something to enjoy, this is something to love. Whereas Chorus was an album that was superficially pretty, CRWTH is one that is haunting and engulfing in every single way. Not entirely surprisingly, the tracks now and then bear some resemblance to Gregorian chants. To tracks like DZAI and FLRM, there’s an almost religious feel, a sense that whatever is communicated through the reconstructed fragments of voice is something superhuman, sounding of age, wisdom and divine beauty.
CRWTH (Chorus Redux) is singularly amazing, with the new material surpassing the original material in every which way. Seeing as Chorus, however, was already excellent, it should tell you something about how astonishing this album is. A truly, highly recommended album, which furthermore comes with a free download link to Chorus, for us listeners to contrast, compare, adore. Another excellent release on Line, a division of Taylor Deupree’s brilliant 12k label, that should simply not be missed. - Sven Klippel
A bit of background is needed first, however. As the title indicates, Crwth (Chorus Redux) was preceded by the Lovesliescrushing release Chorus, which also, like its successor, features vocals only. On that 2007 recording, the group manipulates vocal tracks and uses processing to transform them into lush settings of floating character. As the limited edition release was issued only in Peru and therefore difficult to find, Line head Richard Chartier contacted Cortez in order to obtain a copy of the recording, which eventually led to the idea of Lovesliescrushing revisiting the album's tracks for a Line recording, the idea being that Crwth would become an even further abstraction upon the original material. The results are ethereal, naturally, but also strikingly beautiful, to say the least. In some tracks, angelic voices intone softly to produce celestial moods; in other cases, the voices are processed so radically they become little more than minimal tones that throb and drone as relaxedly as a sleeping baby. “RHVR” offers a particular lovely example of the album's style when its voices circle around one another, and when lone voices separate themselves out of the mass and then blend back into it. Murmuring ambient settings like “SHEMERR” and “FLRM,” on the other hand, billow as entrancingly as clouds moving almost imperceptibly across the summer sky. Many of the pieces whisper so peacefully, they're like the deepest sleep state given aural form. Crwth (Chorus Redux) amounts to seventy minutes of minimal vocal-based landscapes where the voices of Arpin-Duimstra and Cortez, altered by fx processing, drift beatifically.