Originally released on a super limited run of cassettes last year (which flew off Digitalis‘ shelves like hotcakes), Matchess’ Seraphastra gets its debut on wax. On the album cover, you’ll notice what looks like a ritual mound and those dark spots in the bottom corners could be interpreted as worshipers kneeling down before it. For some reason, there’s a sickle and what might be a water wheel floating next to it – you may could enlighten us as to why there is in the comments below, if you see something beyond simple surrealism. Whitney Johnson’s deep voice is reminiscent of other crooners from 60s/70s psychedelic bands, like Grace Slick. The album, in its entirety, is a spaced out analog journey. With technology, as advanced as it’s gotten, this totally could’ve been made completely on a computer but Johnson does a good job of replicating more primitive conditions. Check out Seraphastra below via the Bandcamp player and see what you think of it. Cheers!

 

The Details

“Bewitching” is the only word we could come up with to describe “Seraphastra” when we first heard it in 2013. Originally released on an extremely limited cassette by the Digitalis label, the album makes a welcome debut to the vinyl format. Matchess is the solo project of Whitney Johnson, singer & keyboardist for Chicago band Verma, whose banshee-like wail & synth squall can be heard over the band’s more recent Trouble In Mind releases “Coltan” & “Sunrunner” but Johnson’s work as Matchess is a different beast all together. Foregoing her band’s skyward arching krautrock jams for a more subtle, ‘Radiophonic’ approach, “Seraphastra”s alien drones & rhythmic pulse are grounded in the mystic & cosmic efflivium of modern spiritual synth music.

The tone is immediately set from the first track “The Need of the Greatest Wealth”; it ‘s somber mantric drone, envelops the listener in it ’s simple, comforting embrace before ending in a deafening scree of guitar feedback. Other tracks like the entrancing “Letters of Blood & Fire” & “Utterly Delightful Cry of Outrage” are simultaneously exotic as they are familiar, operating just outside the realm of traditional song structure, dipping a toe in here & there. Johnson’s minimalist sensibility owes as much to the Berlin school as it does to early industrial & minimal synth pioneers like Throbbing Gristle & Cabaret Voltaire. Light is finally being shed on the pioneering work of women in electronic music & composition like Delia Derbyshire, Laurie Speigel, and specifically Ruth White (whose spiritual & organic approach to electronic music eschewed it ’s chaotic roots for a more thoughtful & meditative path, with startlingly unsettling results) and Matchess places Johnson in league with counterparts like Zola Jesus and Liz Harris (Grouper), carrying the torch of female experimental & electronic musicians in the 21st century.

Price $23.32

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