The proportion of ‘firsts’ occurring in music (experimental or otherwise) would, in all likelihoood, greatly diminish over time. However, it may also be likely that other sources could blow open the doors to refreshingly exciting ways of creating music – which express emotion in similarly invigorating fashion. Technology, for example, is likely to be a progenitor of tantalisingly new, experimental art – the melding of AI with human mediated decisions to make music, for example. Now, on a separate trajectory, the ‘first album made by a foetus’ has been born.
The album’s conception and resultant creation came from Elizabeth Hart and Iván Diaz Mathé – parents to Luca Yupanqui, whose foetal movements were translated into vibrations and then synthesised sounds through MIDI synth technology – who are themselves musicians; the bassist in experimental band Psychic Ills and a prolific musician and producer respectively. Following the ruminative five-hour sessions of the MIDI devices being hooked up to Elizabeth’s pregnant stomach, the pair translated the electrical impulses produced by Luca and Elizabeth’s bodies into sound using synthesizers – the free-form meditations flowed without much interference and allowed the recordings to evolve naturally – Sounds of the Unborn began to emerge.
The immediate conclusion upon the final bleeps fading was that these five-hours had been condensed into 41 mere minutes with incisive articulation; even with such a seemingly huge reduction, the album’s summative power yields a moving, nuanced, nigh-transcendental experience.
Also apparent, even in the initial ethereal murmurations, was the dramatic aural distinction against the realm of electronic/synth music – forgiving the cliché: a notable vivid, lurid animosity pervades each ‘arterial-pump’ of synth artistry – a quality not masked but elevated by the production process (at which Luca was present alongside her parents, who left the recordings stark and raw, “…respecting the sounds as they were produced…”).
Although a great breadth effuses a pure beauty, other parts seem to translate an all-too-aware revulsion of the outside world: sparked in the swelling, bubbling, and ominous ripples of V5 – a sentiment echoed by Iván Diaz Mathé, speaking of the track’s “‘end of times’ feel.”
However, as the album gestates along V2.1’s glistening, opalescent, synth pool – evoking purity and stillness – or the sound chamber of V3.2, the untainted, unfettered aura Elizabeth speaks of is reflected intrinsically. This piece, with its impression of pulsing movement swelling even greater, and the synth mediating a deep, profusely rich, layered progression, is truly evocative of “…the expression of life in its cosmic state — pre-mind, pre-speculation, pre-influence, and pre-human”. V2.2 also sources similarly transcendental feelings, as several synth branches – a regular bleep, a stoic pulse, an arcing synth – intersect and meander as a further illustration of human, or “pre-human”, growth, and consciousness.
Dense sonic varieties – sometimes a mass of same-y-ness, but mostly a mesh of fascinating, enlivened electronics – encapsulate the diverse narratives, emotions, and expressions: intriguing synth shards which dart elusively, the continual heartbeat-like pulse, and swathes of drone-y fog. These are all glued together with an intrinsic emotional anchoring; another way the album is so succinctly chiselled from those five-hour sessions and yet, also done so with beauty and deftness. Overall, the record succeeds overwhelmingly in delving into the unknown and unchartered – and offering bountiful questions and answers – as “…the outcome of a musical experimentation, a search to find a new form of composition.”
Sounds of the Unborn is far beyond the mere novelty that the “…first album made by a foetus” description suggests: the collective qualities of hibernation, impenetrable solace, and insightful indulgences into an unknown world are all sewn throughout; sewn with – and inducing – deep contemplation; all via a diverse ensemble of electronica. Yet the prospect of this technology birthing a new genre of Frankenstein-like compositions – technology that can be affixed “…to any living thing and create your own music together with them…”, including “…the leaves of a plant or skin…” – seems unlikely. However, considering the depths of human emotion which this album exhibits and also queries, perhaps we may see an album from a tulip, or from a pet’s desultory snoring.
Out on Sacred Bones Records today. Order here.