Mira Calix, the talented multi-disciplinary artist with work in sound design and electronica, a long history with Warp as well as having provided abstract scores to Julius Caesar and Coriolanus with The Royal Shakespeare Company. She approaches sound as a sculptor approaches a block of marble, capable of embracing chaos with an astute, form-finding vision. Her first full-length album in quite some time, a̶b̶s̶e̶n̶t̶ origin sees Calix engaging with a new musical language, of which the sources are tantalisingly fuzzy - translating the visual techniques of collage into an auditory assemblage of fractured but rhythmic sounds and texture with nods to post punk and avant pop.
Max Ernst suggested that humans have “a store of buried images” in their subconscious minds, and that voyages into the unconscious can “bring pure and unadulterated found objects to light.” The title and concept behind a̶b̶s̶e̶n̶t̶ origin draws from this idea, with Calix using her own artistic archive to source material. field recordings, electronic sounds, protests and poems are synthesised, reassembled and juxtaposed, and forged into a new structure with new meaning. Calix was researching the First World War and interwar period, and found that “this turbulent period and the rise of nationalism not only echoed the state of the world around me, but corresponded with the birth and rise of collage within modern art.” Each song on the album was created by applying collage processes from different visual artists spanning the history of collage. In the modern media landscape we often speak through found sources - here, Calix uses collage as a tool to critically examine a culture of systemic displacement.
The lines between electronic and organic are continually blurred throughout. Finger-clicks and ghostly choral vocals trace out an alien rhythm on ‘a mark of resistance’, as strange, mouthy pops and squeaks mesh with jarring samples and synth lines in a cacophony of stimuli. The spirit of dance music animates the plethora of noises on the album, bringing to mind the household techno of Herbert via Schoenberg on the likes of ‘nkosezane - for my daddy’ and ‘fundamental things’. The eschatological coda ‘i’m in love with the end of the world’ brings the album to an eerily sweet end of looping voices, as the 30-second sketch ‘surrender’ closes a̶b̶s̶e̶n̶t̶ origin with a clinking thud.
Mira Calix’s creativity knows no bounds, and a̶b̶s̶e̶n̶t̶ origin proves yet again that she can surprise listeners whilst maintaining her own distinct sound.