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Classical Music Review

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Hearing Voices


Composer: Jeff Morris
Label: Ravello Records
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 08 May 2020

Hearing Voices is Jeff Morris's third album (Interfaces, With Strings) of electronic music for Ravello Records. This collection of 7 tracks (50 min, 15 sec) harnesses the expressive power of digital glitches, sonic manipulation, and underneath it all, the human voice...

I'm not usually overly fond of experimental contemporary albums. From a technical point of view I get it, it's interesting and attention grabbing, but they are rarely the sort of albums you can listen to very often without feeling like you're losing a grip on reality.

Jeff Morris's Hearing Voices is unsettling, intriguing... but most of all it's a lot of fun. The album opens with 'In the Middle of the Room', featuring the vocal talents of Elisabeth Blair. The chorus of singers, is in actuality just Blair. This song is electronically contorted by Morris in real time using a technique he calls “live sampling.” The improvised lyrics sound partly familiar, but in truth are total nonsense.

'Definition of A' sees singer Susanna Hood's improvisations are again manipulated in real time by Morris.

The three part 'A Tuesday with Rodney' sees Rodney Waschka II experimenting with words and forms. I couldn't help but be reminded of Matt Frewer's '80s artificial intelligence character Max Headroom. Vocally it plays with words becoming other words when repeated. So, "Ex... Ex... Ex..." eventually becomes "Sex... Sex... Sex...", while "Exposition... Exposition... Exposition..." becomes "Sex position... Sex position... Sex position..."

'Jabberwocky - A Timbre Poem', works perfectly here. Morris's compositions mirrors Lewis Carroll’s famous stanzas of nonsense words. And finally we come to 'Reprise (Hearing Voices)'. Through the prism of a machine learning algorithm, Morris revisits themes from earlier in the album, but with a much eerier approach.

Is it the sort of album I'd want to listen to on a regular basis? Well, no. But then this is a collection that demands your full attention. It's interesting trying to fathom how each sound was created and how all the elements are pieced together. It's novel, quirky and a lot of fun.


Darren Rea

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