Viv Corringham’s previous outing on Linear Obsessional, 2013’s ‘Gum + Butts’, was a wonderful and strange odyssey. Corringham recorded live improvisations at various sites across London – Borough Market, Tate Modern, Kings Cross station, etc – often in the open air, surrounded by the hustle and bustle of everyday life. This combination of locational specificity and weird utterance gave ‘Gums + Butts’ a startling and refreshing quality, as if a quizzical alien tourist were trudging around the capital beaming sonic postcards back to its brethren across the galaxy.
Field recordings were central to ‘Gum + Butts’, and they also make an appearance on ‘Until I Learn the Language of Vegetable Mineral’, often working in combination with subtle electronics and processed voices to provide fuzzy, soft-edged backdrops for Corringham’s vocal explorations. ‘Leaving By The Small Door’ sets drowsy insectoid buzzing and birdsong against an unsettling mantra whose echoes hang in the air like smoke. “We’re leaving by the small door … our story unfinished … nobody left remembers the beginning anyway”. Imagine H.G Wells’ ‘The Door In The Wall’ as a despatch from the other side of the brickwork.
‘Until I Learn the Language of Vegetable Mineral’ contains, as the release notes tell us, ‘real songs, with words’. This is …. fine, I guess, although anyone who’s listened to commercial radio recently will tell you that ‘real songs with words’ aren’t necessarily all they’re cracked up to be. Nevertheless, Corringham’s embrace of the form is compelling, her vocals floating in deft, almost folkish melodies above the hiss and swirl as her lyrics pile up streams of imagistic impressions. ‘In The Skyways of Minneapolis’ starts as a roving travelogue, Corringham cruising like a surveillance drone above the landscape, before shifting into a stern, eery register. “Unwritten, cold, betray thee outsider … I look out of windows … I try to decide which direction to walk … None of this behaviour is normal,” she croons, like Annette Peacock teleported into an Arthur Machen story while a warped choir moans and gurgles behind her.
Corringham’s extended vocal techniques, manipulated and fragmented with typically excellent post-production, give the nine compositions on ‘Until I Learn the Language of Vegetable Mineral’ a feverish, almost tormented quality, as if she were constantly surrounded hissing armies of the unquiet dead. In ‘Rising’ she’s corralled these spectres into a harmonious group, a deathly barber-shop quartet caged in her hard drive to add elegant accompaniment to this sparse eco-lament. Their blissful hoots are a poignant farewell before everything is swamped in digital debris, vestigial echoes of humanity finally swept away by Anthropocene floods.