In times like these, who wouldn’t want to be a ghost? Able to pass through the world unaffected by precariat freelancing, normalized prejudice, deferred retirement, environmental catastrophe, and all the rest? Add to this the old k-punk trope of a weary nostalgia for a cancelled future, thanks to brazenly ideological austerity and lowest common denominator populism and, well, you have a bunch of pretty good reasons for the continuing haunto-isms that proliferate across the varying strains of out-there sound manufacture. Alex Alexopolous’s Wild Anima project fits into this stream of sonic exploration as naturally as a fish swims downriver, her revenant chants and keening, minimalist orchestration channeling both the echo-laden haze of Liz Harris’s Grouper and the crumbling tape loop melancholy of William Basinski into ethereal compositions that, despite their weightlessness, always seem anchored to the material world.
Originally released as Blue Twenty Two last year this Wild Anima collection was, rightly, a bit of a smash, and is now reissued with a whole new side of material and a clutch of remixes, enabling us to bask in its woozy sadness all over again. The remixes are fine, but it’s the original material, old and new, where the magic happens.Known collectively as Songs From Above, the initial pieces were laid down in 2013, although not released until three years later, and are unified by an emphasis on the voice. Alexopolous lays down a series of ghostly chants, accompanied only by occasional hand bell strikes and with copious reverb helping to fill out the sound. These are sparse and affecting, their wordlessness adding to their mystery, the cycling wanderings of their melodies echoing the patterns of a classic haunting, repetitions of unfulfilled purpose expressed as lament. Alexopolous’ disembodied voice, layered and manipulated to fill the lower and higher end, curls through listless undulations, evoking not so much the deserted house of ghost lore, but instead more contemporary empty spaces – decaying postcolonial mansions in the tropics, foreclosed dustbowl farmhouses, half-finished skyscrapers in a bankrupt metropolis. Here the path to liberation is stalled, the path out of the labyrinth blocked by grey clouds of confusion.
The newer composition, the 20-minute Selene, expands the sound palette with wafts of soft-edged tones (probably processed strings but they could be airy synths) and samples of Inuit shamanic mumbles complementing vocals that are even more diffuse and soaring. To me, there seems a marked difference of tone here, moving from resignation to transcendence, maybe, or from consolation to transformation. Those mystic utterances, coming about six minutes in, will be unintelligible to most, but the aged tranquility of those syllables nevertheless resonates through the slow drifts of sound like a lamp shining through fog, waking us from slumber and imbuing these soundscapes with freshness, a slow-motion euphoria even, a power surge that gives us the courage to push on through the storms of the everyday and create our own futures.